Fulfilling work

Quinn Eastman

From the classroom to the workforce

Before Zina Jenkins started her job at Emory University Hospital Midtown, IV pumps were always disappearing. Then Jenkins (above) entered the picture, tasked with rounding up the pumps, cleaning and testing them, then delivering them where they were needed. She became so adept at her job—and saved the hospital so much money—that Emory duplicated the job at Emory University Hospital.

Jenkins is one of more than 40 young people with developmental disabilities working at Emory Healthcare. Trained through Project Search, they work between 20 and 30 hours a week on jobs from stocking supply carts to compiling billing records. They are regular employees, earning regular wages.

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A collaboration between Emory, state agencies in Georgia, and the Roswell employment agency Briggs & Associates, Project Search targets high school seniors for one-on-one job training and coaching. As a sign of its success, the starting location for the program, Emory University Hospital Midtown, received the “Freedom to Compete” award in 2007 from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The program is a break from traditional approaches to employment for people with developmental disabilities. It identifies  clinical and clerical support staff positions and coaches the fit between the employee and the job, says Briggs Region Director Emily Myers. “Once our individuals are hired, we don’t disappear. We do whatever it takes to keep them working.” That includes helping the employee with logistics and commuting challenges too.

Wesley Woods Center COO Al Blackwelder says that Project Search provides focused, energetic employees to do everyday tasks, freeing up health care staff to focus on patient care.

Anne McKinnon, daughter of Emory vascular surgeon Bill McKinnon, was the first person hired by Project Search. An employee in patient accounts, she is known for being an avid Braves fan and has become a regular performer at Emory Midtown’s annual talent show with her rendition of “Take me out to the ball game.”

Another Search employee, Zelyna Cano, works in materials management, where she processes orders, handles bar codes, and makes deliveries. “I get to move around,” Cano says. “I don’t sit in one place… and I like seeing the babies.” —Quinn Eastman

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