In This Section      

Dome - Determined to Succeed

Dome June 2014

Determined to Succeed

Date: June 5, 2014

Workforce development program allows employees to advance in their jobs.

Edward McKay Jr.
1 2
Edward McKay Jr. received full-time pay plus tuition while training as a surgical technician. He says his new career has been “life-changing” financially and professionally.
photo by Keith Weller

By 2004, Edward McKay Jr. had been an environmental services employee at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for five years. He was ready for more challenges and higher pay, but, he says, “I had difficulty figuring out what I wanted to do.” Then, as he was taking out the trash one day, he was approached by Ken Grant, the hospital’s vice president of general services.

“I thought I was in trouble,” says McKay, now 33.

Instead, Grant told McKay about a Johns Hopkins benefit that would let McKay work part time while receiving full-time pay plus tuition to earn a surgical technician certificate through Baltimore City Community College (BCCC).

“I was like, ‘Yes, definitely, I’m going to jump all over this,’” recalls McKay. “I didn’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket. They even paid for my parking.”

For 14 months, he juggled the demands of work and school. “I used to sit up at night, wondering if I was going to make it,” he says. “But I was determined not to fail.” He received his certificate in June 2005 and immediately began his new job, earning a “significant jump” in salary. “It’s been a life-changing experience,” he says of the career switch. “I love what I do.”

As a surgical technician, McKay worked side by side with pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson before his 2013 retirement, and he now supports George Jallo and other pediatric surgeons. McKay hands the doctors the instruments they need and keeps the surgical field sterile, anticipating the needs of the surgeons without communication. 

“There is no room for a mistake,” he says of surgeries that can take four or more hours. “Not when you’re cutting some child’s head open and taking out a brain tumor.”

Johns Hopkins offers a host of career advancement benefits to eligible employees, including tuition reimbursement and tuition-free associate’s degrees through a partnership with BCCC.

McKay joined the hospital in 1999, shortly after graduating from Southern High School in Baltimore. In 2008, he received a Baker-King Award, which recognizes outstanding hospital employees, after being nominated by Carson. 

“The educational benefits are important,” McKay says. “You have opportunities to grow. You don’t have to be stuck in the same position forever. Basically, Hopkins is what you make it out to be. It’s on you—what you make of it.”

—Karen Nitkin


For information about Project REACH Resources and Education for the Advancement of Careers at Hopkins, visit

Related Services