From the category archives:

Everyday Hopkins

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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Alyssa Stewart, child life specialist, traveled many miles in her journey to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Photo by Maxwell Boam.

I always was interested in helping children. I lived in Arkansas until college, when I moved to Virginia to attend Liberty University and received my degree in child development and psychology. I wanted to work in humanitarian relief overseas, so after graduation, I took a job as the interim director of programs at Pure Mission, where I acted as a caregiver and guardian for children in Malawi, Africa, while also overseeing daily operations of Esther’s House orphanage, 12 local feeding centers and a program for widows. Those six months were life changing because it put into perspective what I wanted in my life and career.

When I returned to the United States, I looked for a job that allowed me to feel fulfilled by helping vulnerable populations like in Africa. I remembered learning of child life services during college and decided to pursue my clinical internship with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

A child life specialist’s goal is to reduce stress and anxiety for our infants, youths and teens. We usually accomplish this through a variety of interventions, including preparation, diagnostic education and therapeutic play, which is a focused activity that promotes emotional expression or normal development in a specific area.

I work in the emergency department, so children who face significant medical trauma or alleged abuse are my top priorities. I help them establish positive coping skills for their time in the hospital, as well as for future events.

I think the hardest part of my job is knowing I can’t help everyone. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s emergency room is open 24/7, but the coverage consists of two specialists who work different 10-hour shifts. The emergency department might see up to 100 patients a day. Thankfully, we have a great multidisciplinary team and we do the best we possibly can together.

I believe Johns Hopkins would benefit from growing the number of child life specialists, not only in the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center emergency room but across numerous departments within the hospital. Psychosocial support for our pediatric patients is crucial to ensure healthy coping while in the hospital as well as during future medical experiences.

When I’m off, I like spending time with friends, going to movies and exploring Baltimore. The city really grows on you — it’s called Charm City for a reason.

When I received my official job offer after completing my internship, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I’m currently in my third year and I can see myself staying in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins long term.


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Jackie Roles (right) with daughter Tarsha Trent at the 2018 Employee Appreciation Dinner

Jackie Roles, a unit associate in emergency nursing, followed in her mother’s footsteps by working at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 2018, Jackie celebrated her 30-year work anniversary alongside her daughter, endoscopy tech Tarsha Trent, who has worked at Johns Hopkins for 20 years.

Listen to Jackie and Tarsha discuss what it’s like to celebrate their anniversaries together: 


Tarsha: It seems like our whole family has worked here at one point. When I was growing up, I didn’t think I was going to work here because so much of the family worked here. I said, “I’m not going to work at Johns Hopkins.” But then I said, “I want to know, I want to grow.” For me, it doesn’t feel like it’s been 20 years.

Jackie: Having family work here: I like it. We all get to grow with each other, experience what’s going on in here. When we talk to each other, we find out that we know the same people. She may have a patient that I know from downstairs. They say, “Oh, that’s your mother? That’s your daughter?” It makes you feel proud.

Tarsha: I take care of someone like I want someone to take care of my mother or one of my children. I’m an endoscopy tech, but I provide love. People hear “endoscopy” and they think of having a colonoscopy, but we do so much more. People get nervous when it comes to a procedure. It’s part of my job to not just be a tech in the room or put your IV in, but also to comfort you and provide love. That’s what I mean when I say I provide love. I do it because that’s how I was raised, for one. I was instilled to always have manners and treat everyone with respect.

Jackie: I was always curious about what my mom did up here [at The Johns Hopkins Hospital]. For the first 10 months after I came in the door, I worked in housekeeping. I began talking to people, curious to be more hands-on and learn about supplies and equipment. I’m always observing people, watching what they do, curious to see when and how people do things. You’ve got to find what works for you. Everybody can’t work in the ER; everyone can’t work in endoscopy. The ER works for me. I’m a multitasker. I transport, I stock, I set the traumas up, I’m running traumas. In a trauma, I give everyone the supplies they need, I go to the pharmacy, I go to the blood bank. I’m a jack-of-all trades. It comes down to all of us to run the traumas.

Tarsha: I need to get back to that [being a nurse]. I went to nursing school and I just need to finish. I don’t want to go back to just bedside nursing, but I don’t know what floor I’d go to. I could see myself becoming a nurse practitioner.

Jackie: A lot of times, Tarsha is training nurses. Hopkins is all about teaching and learning. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I still can’t learn or teach something. A young person could teach me something – you can’t avoid it. If I’m training you, I’m going to train you the correct way. You may find a shortcut, but train and learn the job first and then you can find a shortcut and do it your way.

Tarsha: By the time we retire, they’re going to remember us.

Jackie: When I retire, I want to travel. I’d love to go to Paris, Europe, Hawaii, Vegas. My dream was always to go to Africa, just to see what really goes on over there, see how they live, see the culture. That’s where I’ve always really wanted to go. But … I don’t like to fly.

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Janica Thompson

Janica Thompson is a clinical customer service representative and is currently in the Revenue Cycle Management Academy.

I’ve always wanted to work for Johns Hopkins and began applying when I was in high school.

I’ve had a lot of family over the years work at Hopkins, including my mom, my aunt and cousins. My biggest role model is my brother, Edward McKay Jr., who’s worked here for over 20 years. He started in environmental services and worked his way up to becoming a surgical tech under Ben Carson.

Once The Johns Hopkins Hospital opened its Zayed building, my brother told me to apply because the building was new and the hospital would need workers. I applied for the environmental services position in February of 2012 and was hired in April.

I wanted my foot in the door and I thought this was the perfect place to start.

I worked for about four years in an office area. I enjoyed the relationships I built with everyone but I felt limited in that position.

With the encouragement and a great letter of recommendation from my manager, I got a new job as a unit associate (UA). My role was to ensure the unit runs smoothly. Dealing with equipment, helping nurses, pharmacy runs, having everything stocked, taking patients downstairs for discharge, etc.

Within my first two weeks of being a UA, I experienced a code blue, which is cardiac/respiratory arrest, in my unit. This was my first time really experiencing hospital culture.

Nurses would always tell me that I would be a good clinical customer service representative (CCSR) and that I should apply for that position. After serving as a UA for nine month, I obtained my current role: clinical customer service representative. I am the center for the whole unit. I sit at the front desk and deal with patients, doctors and nurses. I’m here to answer their questions and to assist them.

It was a natural transition from being a UA to a CCSR. Unit associates always covered the desk for CCSRs during their breaks, so I already knew the job a little bit.

I’ve been a clinical customer service representative since February of 2017, so next year will be two years for me.

I try to be that person that helps with anything. Nurses get busy and I try to keep things running smooth. It used to be challenging in the beginning because you have to juggle everything at once. You might have this person asking you to do something, you have a phone ringing, a patient is calling. I always push through it and prioritize.

I just got into the Revenue Cycle Management Academy. I have been interested, and my manager felt like I would be a good candidate for this program. It’s 12 weeks of training about how the hospital’s finances work.

With this, I’m leaning more toward finance, health care administration or business administration as a job in my future.

A lot of people feel like they are at a standstill in a position they don’t want to be in. Get out there and look into your resources. The possibilities at Hopkins are endless.

--As told to Sarah McCormick

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Gesley Fisher

Gesley Fisher, a senior pharmacy technician in pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, interned at the hospital through environmental services when he was in college.

I started my career in medicine being a CVS pharmacy technician. Fresh out of college, it was hard to find jobs. A friend who wanted to become a pharmacist was working at CVS. He gave me a recommendation to work in their pharmacy and they hired me. I did a three-to-six month training program that prepared me for the Maryland Pharmacy Technician Certification Board exam (PTCB). Once I passed, I was a certified pharmacy technician through the state of Maryland.

Two and a half years later, I followed that same friend from CVS to The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He gave me a recommendation to work here as well. I wanted something new. I am one of 41 pharmacy technicians within the pediatric pharmacy.

When I got to Johns Hopkins I needed to be nationally certified to do IVs. Because of this, for my first few months I didn’t go in the “IV hood.” This is a sterile environment where IV fluids and injections are made. I was mostly doing the “PO section,” which is a signature code for “by mouth.” Outside the hood is where I made liquid medicine or oral solutions, such as tablets.

Once I passed the national PTCB , I was able to train and go in the IV room.

I picked up making IV medicine so well, I became a chemotherapy technician. I worked in the special handling hood and dealt with drugs that were hazardous. Since the beginning of October, I’m a senior technician in pediatrics. It’s still early on, but so far I have a few new responsibilities, such as training newcomers. I have the same responsibilities as I did in my positions before, but I am now more of a leader.

I’ve only been here for a year and a half and have been steadily going up the ladder in a very quick fashion.

I’m on a rotating shift and I work mostly day shifts, sometimes nights. Depending on the letter of the day, I will have different responsibilities. I might have to restock the entire pharmacy one day, make oral compounds the next, or make dilutions for the next batch of medicine going out to patients another day.

When I first arrive at work, depending on my shift, I will make one of the three batches of medicine that are delivered to pediatric patients throughout the day. Depending on the prescription, they have different colored labels. Once all batches and first doses are finished, they are sorted onto different carts and delivered to their assigned units within pediatrics.

I am handling so many things, so it’s important that I am accurate, that I am not giving a patient too much of a drug, that I’m delivering the right drugs to the right patients, and doing everything in a sterile environment. On average, about  3,000 doses of medicine are customized for specific patients and dispensed each day in pediatrics.

Seeing the impact my job has on pediatric patients is motivating. I’ve seen how people, like my co-workers, talk about how hard I work. Helping children when they are sick and knowing my job is to make them feel better is fulfilling.

As far as my education, I have an undergrad degree in biochemistry with a minor in forensic science. I’ve always had an interest in science. I like the concept of analyzing evidence to come to a conclusion. My ultimate goal is to become a forensic scientist. I plan on going back to grad school to work on that when the time is right.

--As told to Sarah McCormick

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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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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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1 Comment

180410 MESUBI rotimi_8457

I was lucky to be born into a family where my parents are science educators. My dad was a college chemistry professor and my mom a high school chemistry teacher who later became a vice principal. Growing up, I remember spending some of my after-school hours with my siblings (two younger brothers and a younger sister) in my Dad’s lab. It was so fascinating to see him and his graduate students conduct their science experiments. I went into medicine because my parents encouraged me to be a physician. But I have always been interested in science and understanding how things work.

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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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