“My best friend and I wanted extra money because we liked to go to Sander’s, an ice cream place in Detroit, so we got a job folding laundry as teenagers at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan [now Ascension Providence Hospital, Southfield Campus]. We thought it was going to be really cool to have our own paychecks.
Most of the people who worked there were quite a bit older than us, and they had folded sheets and towels their whole lives. Then, here come this young whippersnappers who wanted to come in and chat. The supervisor said we couldn’t talk and there were very specific breaks. You had to bring your own lunch. They did not have downstairs air conditioning or anything like that—not anything like how hospitals are today.
We lasted only a couple of months and thought it was just awful, so we got a job cooking popcorn and selling hotdogs in the mall because it was air-conditioned.
Years later, I ended up as the executive assistant for Joe Greene, who started Health Management Associates (HMA). When I told him the story, he said, “There is so much more to the hospital business than folding sheets.” But I learned a lot during that short glimpse of time, like you never know the people behind the scenes who you just take for granted. You go to a hospital or hotel and expect nice, clean sheets, but you don’t know how they got that way—you just know they are there.
I have such an appreciation for people who do hard labor because of my experience. It’s the people behind the scenes who do the hardest work and are often the least appreciated, so I really try to go out of my way to thank those people and get to know them.”
—As told to Melanie Pagan