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Kimberly Harris-Coates

Kimberly Harris-Coates,  a longtime member of Unified Voices, is shown at the 2019 MLK Jr. Commemoration. The joy of singing on the gospel choir helped get her through a difficult time in her life.

I started at Hopkins in 1991 as a temporary administrative secretary. I was restarting my career because I was laid off from my job working in an environmental lab. It was a difficult time in my life. But God placed me in that temporary position and from there I got hired full-time. Currently, I’m a manager in the Department of Psychiatry and work mostly with outpatient operations.

It was in 1993 when I went to orientation and met Sandy Johnson (Johnson was a highly regarded HR employee and chaplain who died suddenly in 2017). Sandy told the entire group about this gospel choir called Unified Voices that sang at different places like churches and schools, and at the annual Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. She made it sound very exciting and told me ‘you will be blessed.' I went to that first rehearsal. It came at a very timely point my life  and have been a member ever since!

I sang in a church choir as a teen. It had been a long time since I sang with an organized group. I would sing songs on the radio, but this was huge. I immersed myself in Unified Voices. We practice every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Hurd Hall (except for a hiatus over the summer).

Going in, I was very nervous. I didn't sing really loud. I just kind of paid attention and followed along. Everybody was very welcoming. The choir members are employees and members of the community, many different backgrounds and experiences.

When I started, I was a soprano. They listened to me and said ‘you’re an alto.’  I've always loved singing alto because the harmony is a little more challenging than the melody. Now, I am singing in the tenor section. In gospel, you get to belt a lot. And I could sing tenor all day long without getting hoarse.

I remember the director, Dr. Gregory Branch (a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of medicine and Baltimore County's Health Officer), called on me to sing a solo. I was nervous because I wasn’t use to singing solos, but it helped me to grow. I guess you can say in Unified Voices, I found my voice.

I had to stop singing for a couple of years because I was going to grad school. What keeps me coming back is that life has it ups and downs and you need family close when you’re going through things. The choir is my family;  it’s the one place I know that my spirit will get fed through song and I can hold on just a little while longer.

What brings me joy at Hopkins is the people that I work with. I have a best friend at work but there are other friends and we all help each other get through.

On a personal note, I have two children. My son is 32 and has special needs with mild retardation and Autistic Spectrum, and lives in a group home. He sings, recites poetry and also acts.  My daughter is 27 and back home with me. She attended the Baltimore School for the Arts. I’m proud of my children and am close with my family and friends. We often get together, travel and support one another.

I love Broadway shows and never knew that about myself before joining Unified Voices. Did you know UV does plays? I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in some of them — Little Shop of Horrors, Dream Girls, and the Wiz, to name a few. I sing background and that’s the most fun I ever had in my life.  I loved it!  Any time I’m singing I am breathing and getting those endorphins going – it makes me happy.

I must say that Dr. Branch is the glue that keeps the choir together. He is so giving of his time, helps develop people and provides a platform for people to share their gifts. We have some very talented members and I have been blessed to be a part of it all.

Usually, all good things must come to an end, but Unified Voices hasn’t. The choir members are very supportive of each other and I have met lifelong friends there. Once you are in Unified Voices, you are forever a member.

Note: Unified Voices will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Sunday, May 19, at 5 p.m. in Turner Auditorium on the East Baltimore campus. See the flyer with details.

—As told to Janet Anderson, Marketing and Communications

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Roderick Toney, director of mail distribution and sustainability, is shown with a Mail Matrix machine capable of processing 3,000 pieces of mixed mail (letters, flats, magazines, small parcels) per hour to over 1,020 mail delivery points in a single pass.

Describe your responsibilities as assistant director of mail distribution and sustainability for The Johns Hopkins Hospital?

I oversee mail throughout The Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Johns Hopkins University, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. For sustainability, I am responsible for managing different initiatives such as furniture recycling, confidential paper shredding and salvaging. I also help run the Johns Hopkins Hospital farmers market in conjunction with Reduction in Motion, as well as the hospital’s membership with Practice Greenhealth, which delivers sustainability best practices. I have a fantastic team working with me!

What is your background? Where did you get your start?

I’m a proud product of Johns Hopkins! I started here when I was 18 working in the nutrition department, and Johns Hopkins gave me the resources to take leadership management courses that helped me grow as a professional and individual. Johns Hopkins also provided a number of mentors who were invaluable for me to reach my current position. They groomed me to be a leader and I’m always eager to pass it forward to the next generation.

What is your role in Johns Hopkins' sustainability efforts?

Sustainability is incredibly important for Johns Hopkins across the board. I personally have three main responsibilities for sustainability:

  • I work to increase waste diversion. This includes recycling and repurposing electronics and furniture as well as shredding confidential papers.
  • Next, I focus on increasing access to local and sustainable food through our farmers market. East Baltimore is considered a food desert — there is limited access to healthy foods. The Johns Hopkins Hospital farmers market provides healthy, locally sourced foods for both staff and the community. It also provides a matching program using federal nutrition benefits for qualifying community members and associates — if an individual is on federal assistance, they can receive up to $5 in matching funds, which allows them to purchase more produce and vegetables. We also offer free cooking demonstrations and community recycling for electronics and paper.
  • Lastly, I am responsible for increasing engagement through our Green Office Certification program. The certification is a self-reporting eco-checklist for The Johns Hopkins Hospital departments, which ensures they will become more ecologically sustainable. For example, using a water tower instead of plastic bottles is something you would find on the checklist. Departments who achieve everything on the list are recognized as champions and receive an award.

What are the sustainability goals for the future?

We want to continue to be as eco-friendly as possible. Personally, I would like to see Johns Hopkins be recognized as a top program in sustainability in the near future. We have already been celebrated numerous times for our efforts. However, I would like us to continue growing.

Is there a particular initiative that you believe should be highlighted?

We have an instrument reprocessing program with Stryker where we send them our old medical equipment and they refurbish and resell the supplies back to us. These items remain at a high safety level while saving the health system considerable cost — about $1.2 million.

What do you feel is needed to improve sustainability?

Engagement is key. We have several members of leadership such as Redonda Miller and Ken Grant who are engaged with sustainability, but there still needs to be more structure for the departments to help align our goals further and engage all employees.

Communication is also incredibly important. For example, we have both recycling and trash cans. However, if no one is trained about the difference between the two, then the recycling can is useless. We need to be able to clearly communicate how to be sustainable in order for our work to be effective.

Lastly, how challenging is it working for mail distribution during the holiday season?

During the holiday season, mail distribution becomes a bit more difficult because we become overwhelmed with personal packages. We use the same resources to process these packages so it takes a toll on the system. As a reminder, Johns Hopkins mail distribution should not be used for personal packages – no exceptions. This rule isn’t just made to help keep the system running efficiently - it’s also for safety purposes. So please, everyone, have your personal packages delivered to your home or alternate location.

For more information of The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s sustainability efforts, please email Roderick Toney at

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When I look back at becoming an interpreter, I can’t help but think how lucky I am.

I’m originally from China. I came to the United States in 1997 from Canada expecting to find work in mechanical engineering, but I gave birth to three children and stayed home for many years.

During this time, I attended a bilingual church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and would volunteer to interpret for mandarin speaking families. One of the sisters from the church was an interpreter in the University of Michigan Health System and asked me to apply as an interpreter.

I learned quickly how thorough and difficult the hiring process was. I had to fully understand medical terminologies and know basic knowledge about the body, diseases and treatment. I prepared for a month, passed the interview and started my career.

Three years later, my family moved to Maryland and I applied for a position with Language Access Services at Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI). The testing was much more intense.  I was originally brought on as a contractor, and a year later I got the full-time position.  JHI provided me with great opportunities. For example, they pay for you to receive training and certification.

I’m the only full-time Mandarin interpreter. If I don’t have any on site cases, I’ll do phone interpretation — we receive calls on the community line both from patients and provider. I also do translation, which includes patient education material, brochures, and news releases. Anything that needs translation goes through me.

On site interpretation is usually easier and more accurate. It helps to see things like a patient’s body language when you are working on more sensitive cases. Seeing how they react is vital when you are deciding on something like your tone.

End of life situations were initially difficult for me — there was actually one where I ended up crying. Part of our code of ethics is to take yourself out of the situation in order to do your job. Of course, you need a rapport with the provider and the patient, but keeping a professional distance is important. It’s something that I learned — not completely, but enough for the job.

When I’m not working, I enjoy Zumba and Chinese dance. I like cooking Chinese food, but love eating it much more! I’ve been married for 28 years and have two sons who are in college and a daughter who will start next year.

I’ve been interpreting since 2005 and I feel just as passionate as when I first started. I began volunteering in my church from the beginning, and even after all these years, I still love doing it.


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Lilema Stewart

Lilema Stewart, a patient service coordinator III at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, recently graduated from the Revenue Cycle Management program.

My name is Lilema Stewart (you can call me Lil) and I'm a patient service coordinator III in the Echocardiology unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. I register patients, check insurances, provide customer service, answer the phone—a little bit of everything.

I’ve been at Hopkins for 21 years. I was looking for a full-time job with benefits. My mom worked at Hopkins and suggested I look here (she’s since retired after 33 years as a supervisor in nutrition). I started here as a housekeeper in 1997 to get my foot in the door. I moved to a support associate and secretary before becoming a patient service coordinator in 1999.

I check my email every day and I read the Inside Hopkins email every day. There was an announcement about a career development program called Revenue Cycle Management Academy. It seemed interesting because I do the front end, and I always wanted to know about the back end. So, I applied for the cohort and I was accepted.

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Erin Ricketts

Erin Ricketts says that her team of research assistants gives her joy in her position as senior research program manager in the school of medicine.

You have been with Johns Hopkins University for several years. Tell me about your current position.

I am a senior research program manager in the school of medicine. I support the research programs in the Department of Emergency Medicine. In that role, I am involved with clinical trials and other research studies, from the study startup—working with the drug companies/sponsor to create the study procedures and training protocols—to the time the study comes onsite at Hopkins. I manage the 20 or so research assistants in the Emergency Department (ED), who are the ones that screen and enroll people into the studies.

Our team also runs the HIV and Hepatitis C ED based testing programs. Our research assistants offer and give complimentary HIV and HCV point-of-care tests to the patients coming into the ED. It’s really rewarding when you have a patient who came to the ED for something unrelated and test positive; our staff help link that person to care and potentially cure them.

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Yariela Kerr-DonovanYariela Kerr-Donovan is senior director for strategic workforce development. In that role, the 14-year workforce development professional oversees a health system office responsible for career and workforce development, skill building and education and training for Johns Hopkins employees. In addition, her office oversees programs and services for youth and adults from the community. Read the Q&A to learn how these programs can help employees with advancement opportunities.

Tell me about the mission of the Office of Strategic Workforce Development.

Our office, which is within the Department of Human Resources for the Johns Hopkins Health System, provides programs and services to help current health system employees advance their careers at Johns Hopkins, youth understand careers in health care, and partner with community organizations to provide training to community adults to become competitive, qualified applicants for employment at Hopkins We have four coaches, one youth program coordinator, two part-time and two casual/on-call skills enhancement instructors, and one staff assistant.

We strive to provide our employees and organization with the workforce/career preparation, access and opportunities to meet their career or workforce goals.

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Heather Webb

Heather Webb focuses on service and patient experience in her role as senior project administrator for the Department of Service Excellence, Johns Hopkins Health System.

I’ve always held positions in customer service, such as when we lived in California and I worked in a diamond lab for 4 ½ years. I have worked for Johns Hopkins Medicine since July of 2014. I am now a senior project administrator in the Department of Service Excellence. Having the opportunity to work at Johns Hopkins, with staff, patients and families to improve the patient experience brings me so much joy.

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Betty Adams, Training Manager for Facilities, has dedicated the last three years to developing and implementing an ongoing training plan to guide environmental care associates and technicians. Read a Q&A about her role at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Betty AdamsGroupWhen I came to Hopkins in 2014, there were over 700 environmental care employees and my predecessor had just retired. There were many needs. I was looking for information so I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. However, I was told that we would be starting fresh, which was good. I started doing discharge room cleaning, and anything I could to learn about the job and the challenges of the job, and to meet and get to know the staff.

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Gamal BornsI began working at Johns Hopkins in 2003. My mother, who is a patient transport supervisor here, told me about the opening and I’ve been here ever since. First, I was a trash tech in environmental services and I later moved to patient transport in radiology.

Once I realized I was holding myself back from all of the opportunities Johns Hopkins has to offer, I started to move forward by telling myself that there must be something better here for me. I got hip to the Hopkins culture of continuous advancement. We are not meant to stay in one place; we have to use the resources provided to move up and start a career.

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There are many things you won’t want to miss at the 36th annual Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration on Friday, Jan. 19, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Turner Auditorium on the East Baltimore campus. The choir will begin performing at around 11:30 a.m. Here are 5:

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