Hidden Talents

I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of serving on the Families and Work Institute (FWI) Board for about five years. Just after my second Board meeting in July of 2010, I had a bad fall just outside FWI offices and broke both legs. When the ambulance arrived, the EMT in charge said they had to take me to the nearest hospital—Bellevue Hospital. I knew that other hospitals were better equipped to handle the rare bone condition I have, but in New York City, the “rules are the rules,” he said.

A few of my fellow Board members were horrified and began heavily lobbying that I be taken to a more appropriate hospital. In fact, the conversation became so heated that the EMTs providing the transport were threatening to engage the police if the conversation continued. Not being a native New Yorker, I had no idea why the advocacy of my colleagues was so strident. Thank goodness Ellen Galinsky, President of FWI, offered to ride to the hospital in the ambulance with me and stay with me to help navigate the situation. Being in tremendous pain, I was so grateful for her kind offer since I had no idea what I was about to encounter.

When they rolled me into the Emergency Room at Bellevue, the reasons for concern became quite clear. Not only were other hospitals more knowledgeable about my condition, the ER at Bellevue deals with serious trauma and violence. There were many armed police escorting injured prisoners in orange jumpsuits, seriously ill homeless individuals, and a general sense that many of the injuries were the result of gunshot wounds and stabbings.

Ellen was able to negotiate with the ER staff to place my stretcher in an orthopedic storage area away from the chaos. She then tracked down through her network an ER physician who did his internship at Bellevue, could call the ER physician on duty and was familiar with the rare bone condition I have. Ellen kept connecting with the doctors to ensure that I was getting a diagnosis and treatment (despite all of the trauma they were dealing with) and stayed with me until my husband could get to the hospital, which took quite a few hours.

During this ordeal, I learned that this is not the first time that Ellen has had to negotiate with the health care system. Her son was born prematurely, requiring more than a month of hospitalization, and she worked with that hospital to bring about changes in the way that premature children are cared for. She also took care of her mother during the last months of her life when a lack of communication between the Emergency Room and the hospital itself let to medical mistakes that spiraled into serious health problems. Again, she was able to work with that hospital in ensuring better ER-Hospital communication and sharing of records and plans for reducing deaths caused by medical mistakes.

So often we do not take the time to understand each other’s unique insights as people who are knowledgeable consumers of the health care system, and the value that these experiences and connections can bring to our lives, both during times of crisis, or just the usual ups and downs of life and the health conditions that can be associated with the aging process. FWI has been a champion not only for the people they know and love but for us all.

I hope you will consider joining me to celebrate the 25th anniversary of FWI in order to learn about the leading edge research and critical advocacy work Ellen and her team at FWI do on behalf of all of us who are looking for effective strategies to better integrate our work and family lives and for creating workplaces that work for both the employer and the employee.

Please consider joining us for a fun and inspiring gala dinner on June 18th at Cipriani in NYC. For information about this event and how you can sponsor or donate go to: http://familiesandwork.org/downloads/gala-invite-v14.2.pdf

About Families and Work Institute: a note from Ellen Galinsky, President and Co Founder, Families and Work Institute

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Families and Work Institute Turns 25-Years Old

Twenty-five years old! A quarter of a century! The Families and Work Institute opened its doors on July 1, 1989 and this summer, we will celebrate this milestone in our history.

Despite the passage of time, I can still feel the trepidation my co founder Dana Friedman and I had in deciding to create an organization, the turmoil of facing an unfriendly real-estate market who didn’t want to rent space to two women, despite our credentials, and the discomfort of being lost in the detail of the design of the logo, the furniture for the office, and where to order paperclips. Yet, I also remember the joy of creation. It has been quite an adventure!

Our mission has never wavered. It is research to live, work, and learn by. Our very reason for coming into existence is to conduct research that leads to action on the changing workforce, the changing family, and the changing community. We are quite unusual among organizations—both academic and non-profit organizations—in four ways:

  • Whereas other organizations tend to be focused on one or a few specific topics, we take a broad, life-cycle approach, covering topics from birth through aging.
  • Whereas other organizations tend to focus on individuals or on the context in which individuals live, we take an ecological approach, looking at individuals in terms of their work, their families, and their communities.
  • Whereas other organizations tend to be either focused on conducting research or in advocating for changes, we are a research organization that works to ensure that the rigorous finding resulting from our studies can or do lead to action.
  • Whereas other organizations that focus on action tend to stop there, we additionally work to ensure that our action projects are change experiments—they are evaluated by research and then improved.

I have known Deb Dagit through most of these 25 years and she has been a stalwart guide, a source of inspiration, and of wisdom throughout. We are proud that she joined the Board of the Families and Work Institute five years ago, and we look forward to working with her, Dan Dagit, and all of you as we shape a new research-to-action initiative on employees with disabilities from our 2014 National Study of the Changing Workforce. Stay tuned!

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3 thoughts on “Hidden Talents

  1. Thank you for sharing! It reminds us all how important it is to have advocates – or when you have the opportunity to be an advocate for someone who needs one.

  2. Advocacy or Civility….Doing the right thing is central. Always a pleasure to read about how there are those who willing and able to help one another. Thank you

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