Thursday, January 14, 2016

Employee of the Month

In UAB's School of Medicine, the Department of Medicine is the largest department, with around 1,000 staff and 400 faculty members.

In December, I was chosen as "one in a thousand" as the Department's Employee of the Month.

The Department Administrator and crew showed up in my office near the beginning of the month. It was kind of a big deal. (Photo credit Ted Clark)

What's even a bigger deal is that there was a reception in my honor, where I was supposed to accept the award. It was like the Oscars around here.

They knew that December 18 was my birthday, but they asked even as they surprised me if that would be a good day to have the reception, as Christmas would interfere with their normal EOM celebration schedule.

Of course, I said it was OK.

Though Mom and Dad have to work at the auction on Fridays and would have to miss my amazing birthday party, they were at least able to come to this event. (Photo credit Will Porter)

It gave me the opportunity to thank people for helping me do what I do. And to get dressed up on a Friday. (Photo credit Will Porter)

After several people said nice things about me, I got to give my speech. Ever since, co-workers have been stopping me to tell me what a great (and funny) speech it was. Evidently, because I'm so dang professional around here they had no idea that I'm actually hilarious, or at least, what passes as such to medical researchers. I deviated from the script a bit, as I saw fit in the moment. No one videotaped it, so I am sharing what is surely my writing triumph for 2015. It's all about me, so I know the subject well. I edited and edited it, but it was still too long. Sue me. It was my day. (Photo credit Will Porter, although he would probably not like to claim credit for this one.) Pictured, left to right: Jason Daniel, MBA, Executive Administrator, Department of Medicine; Laura Gallitz, Department Employee of the Month for December; Mona Fouad, MD, Director, Division of Preventive Medicine; Seth Landefeld, MD, Chair, Department of Medicine; Karan Singh, PhD, Director, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Facility

I am so overwhelmed by your kind words. Ever since Jason, Megann, and Ted showed up with Will, Anitra and Stephanie earlier this month I have been absolutely inundated with kind words and congratulatory remarks. Most people don’t even get this much fuss over them when they retire. When I was little, my grandmother wanted me to be Miss Alabama, and this is probably as close as I will ever get.

Thanks to everyone for being here. The fact that you’re still at the office this late on the last Friday before Christmas makes me feel really honored. Also, around here many of us wear jeans on Friday, so if you dressed up for this occasion, please know that I noticed and I feel very special. Also, today is my birthday, so I’d like to thank the Department of Medicine for coming up with this perfectly legitimate way to sponsor a birthday party for me.

Sometimes, people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t know what to say. Often, I say I’m a secretary, which some people find an outdated term. But if you know anything about secretaries, you know they do everything that needs to be done, and I think that is how I like to think of myself. I do support five research faculty members in our division, whose work is in statistics, primarily in work trying to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. Sometimes, statisticians and epidemiologists help come up with the big statistics that end up in popular rhetoric, like “1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes,” and, more encouragingly, “Humans need an average of 8 hugs per day for emotional well-being.” By the way, I’m not sure if you can store those up so I’m going to need a hug from everyone in here just in case.

When people ask me how I “use” my English degree working for statisticians, I jokingly say I perform “English-to-English translation.” On a daily basis, I proofread things for my faculty, who happen to hail from China, India, South Korea, and Texas, which is almost like a foreign country.

First of all, I want to thank my husband, who is always quick to help out when I need to stay a few minutes late to finish up one more thing or keep AJ when I need to come to work when she is out of school. Behind the scenes, he has been very supportive of my career and I appreciate that I am married to a person who enjoys takeout so much.

Second, I’d like to thank my daughter, Anna June. She is not only brilliant but she is also extremely well-behaved. She will hurry up if I remind her I’m going to be late for work, and she does not pout when Mom has to do something at the office. She kind of likes hanging out up here on special occasions and I hope that I’m modeling for her that women can be and do any kind of thing that they want, even if that happens to include working AND having a kids. UAB has been extremely supportive of my most important role as a parent, and I cannot thank you all enough.

Next, I would like to thank my parents. They make so much of what I do possible, from entertaining Anna June to having paid for my education! I learned so much watching my mom’s professional career in nutrition balanced with her home life – I would never be brave enough to raise 4 kids, but she did it well and made it look easy. My dad gave me every example of how to be successful – I watched him as he finished college and went to law school, starting and growing his career, later running his own firm. At the time I didn’t appreciate it, but he did the best thing he ever could for me, which was letting me spend summers with him at his office. There, I learned exactly what an effective assistant was supposed to do: everything. I washed coffee cups and answered phones; I learned how to transcribe dictation and how to get lunch for an office full of people. I learned to say, “He’s in a meeting,” instead of “he’s in the bathroom.” When people compliment me on my professionalism, I can only thank my dad because I’ve been doing this since I was twelve.
I also need to thank Stephanie Carroll. She’s my supervisor and just a really nice person to know. She knows I am not perfect and she works with that. I have always been so thankful that she is looking out for me.

I want to thank our business office, run by Anitra Baylor. Anitra has also been the recipient of this award and deservedly so. She has an amazing ability to see the big picture AND get the little things right. She is also just a really good person – she is here with us on her off day! Anitra’s staff always helps me with whatever I need, so anything I’ve ordered or paid or gotten approved in the past 8 years is because of their hard work. They are some of the kindest and most helpful individuals I have ever worked with.

I also want to thank Dr. Fouad for leading our Division and Dr. Landefeld for leading the Department. You both give your employees space to be creative but enough direction for the ship to steer forward. I am lucky to work for both of you, who are absolute international superstars.
I also want to thank the Department, including Dr. Landefeld, and the nominating committee. I appreciate your taking time out of your schedule to do this each month. I can tell you for a fact that this program has improved morale around the Department. Everyone wants to know that their work is valued.

I’d like to take a minute to thank my faculty, but if I name each of them, we will be here all day. Just kidding! First and foremost, thanks to Dr. Singh. I have a strong feeling that he orchestrated the nomination letter writing campaign to get me selected for this award. When the email went out about this award, a couple of his friends saw his picture and congratulated him on being Employee of the Month. Dr. Singh pointed out that the last line of the announcement email said, “A reception will be held in his honor.” Maybe they should have let me proofread it!

Dr. Bae, Dr. Chen, Dr. Jackson, and Dr. Kim are the four most laid back guys in this whole division. They are so unassuming, so understanding, and so kind. I really hope that we’re together for a long time.

I also need to thank the people who used to be my faculty. Dr. Desmond, Dr. Oster, and Dr. Li have all been with me for more than a decade. I am proud to know them as people, and I am glad that even though I don’t support them directly, we are still close and get to see each other often.

I was lucky enough to work for Dr. Dutton and Dr. Pisu, even for a relatively short amount of time. 
They are both such excellent researchers and writers. I am glad to count them among my “exes” with whom I can still be friends.

And I saved a whole special thank you for Dr. James Shikany. This guy is the hardest working person I know. His attention to detail is unparalleled. I was fortunate enough to work for him for five years and they were some of the most rewarding, personally and professionally.  As he advanced in his career and he took on more responsibilities, his workload became too great for me to handle in addition to the other five gentlemen I assist, so I had to make the very difficult decision to call for help, stressing that I had not yet figured out how to clone myself. We are also still friends and work together closely, but now he has another assistant. The other day Will asked me if I missed Dr. Shikany and I said “Yes” before he had even finished asking the question, which was a little embarrassing.

I’d like to thank the rest of the support staff, including Nicole Howard, who has also won this award before. These ladies are always good to teach me new things, to back me up when I can’t be here, and to walk with me to get cookies when I need them.

Now is the part where I could say a whole lot about each person in this room. You are all part of my outstanding team, whether or not you work in this division. I could not do what I do without you doing what you do. My contributions are a very small part of UAB’s important research on preventing disease and suffering in the world. I am so pleased to be a part of this group. I have so much respect for your intelligence, your work, your talents, your integrity, and your character. I will add that despite working for VIPs, I have never once been talked down to or disrespected because I was a secretary instead of a PhD. I have always been treated kindly and with respect, and in fact, my opinion and experience have been sought-after. I know that does not happen everywhere, but I am glad it does here. I am also grateful for my parking space and my office with a window.

Finally, I am not usually in front of a group this big unless I’m asking for money. So I will take the opportunity to do it quickly. We are all very blessed to be here, employed and appreciated. One way to show your gratitude is by giving back to the community, and the best way for UAB employees to do this is to contribute to the Benevolent Fund. Your contribution, added to my contribution, and the contribution of others seems to magically multiply – I know it is just addition but when you can see the work that the Benevolent Fund does for over 120 agencies right here in the Birmingham area, it does seem like magic. Gifts are tax deductible and you can give any time at I think that’s what I’d like from you as a birthday gift.

I want to again thank you all for coming. I hope that you and your families will enjoy a safe and happy holiday season. Go Blazers!


Annie Gallitz said...

Laura, I am SO PROUD OF YOU !!!! This certainly was a BIG deal !!!! To be singled out from among an employee pool of that size, is REALLY something!!!!!!!!!!!!!I have NO DOUBT that you are deserving of all accolades which were heaped upon you...... I have always known that you work extremely hard at all that you do, and that you are a very brilliant person, and that you are a person of rare commitment. I admit that this blog opened my eyes to the importance of your role at UAB. It also underscores your humility, and reveals an extremely appreciative nature. No wonder that you were singled out for this honor: you are a very excellent employee, and a very excellent Human Being !!( we who love you already knew the latter,,,,,) CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Annie Gallitz said...

PS. ( and , a really good speechifier!)

Annie Gallitz said...

pps: I thought that every one looked FANTASTIC at the reception, and the family photos were excellent!! ( what a great memento of the occasion !!) I especially liked the one w/ your parents! You looked REALLY pretty, and I loved your dress ! ( it was nice to see that AJ liked that dress and sweater fur thingy enough to wear it for the occasion!! She also looked very nice !) On this subject, can I just ask why AJ wore tennies w/ her outfit ? I know that you recently bought her new dress shoes; is she having shoe issues??? I had some black dress shoes that I was going to send down w/ her stuff, but didn't because I knew about you buying her new ones. I HOPE that there isn;t a shoe issue going on w/ her . What size is she now ,any way ???? BTW===== I never asked this of you, before, but when she grows out of any Cowboy boots , Could you save them for me ?? I collect them. ))

Annie Gallitz said...

9 I dug the red ones out of the garbage and took them home. I had seen in a magazine about some one who collected old kids' cowboy boots, and I loved the collection. ( that's why ")

Laura Gallitz said...

Thank you. I am too lazy to be in politics so I am going to stick to my regular job here, speechifying only occasionally.

The dress was on sale from Macy's, online. I was looking for a festive, long-sleeved dress. I gave them a terrible review when the online when I found out it was hand wash when the description explicitly said otherwise. I should have returned it, but I had too many events to attend in December that it would be great for, so I figured I'd tough it out, even if it only lasts a year.

AJ is actually not having dress shoes issues. What happened was we were in a big time crunch: I couldn't leave work as I was running errands during my lunch and then suddenly had a deadline I needed to wrap up, because I was subbing for someone who was out (all of which I knew about a day in advance). We decided that Ben could leave work later if Mom picked up AJ. Even though I had laid out her entire outfit, including shoes, for her to put in her backpack so that she could get dressed at Nana's house, somehow, she missed the shoes. There was some discussion of running over to my house to get her shoes, but there was just no time. I should have checked behind AJ when she was packing her bag, but I was trying to get my hair straight and jewelry on. She's just so responsible sometimes I forget that she's not infallible. She's only seven, after all.

Luckily, zero people at the reception asked about her shoes.

She is currently wearing a 2 or 2.5 in shoes, and seems OK with her current inventory.

I had no idea you dug in our trash. I don't know how to feel about this. I hope they were not too dirty.