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At first, this gig at Methodist Hospital was nothing more than a side job to Kelvin Wade, a way to make a little pocket change.
He was an 18-year-old kid, fresh out of high school enrolled in classes to become an auto mechanic. His good friend applied for a job at Methodist and told Wade he should, too.
On Nov. 2, 1987, Wade walked into Methodist as a transporter for physical therapy. He would go to the rooms of patients and take them down to their therapy appointments.
It seemed a lot like getting people from Point A to Point B. It seemed mundane and not all that fulfilling.
Until a young Wade decided he would make this job about so much more than that. He decided he would make it about the people he met every day.
“So, I began by saying, ‘I want to learn how to build relationships in 30 seconds with people,’” Wade, 47, says. “Help them to feel connected to me and to our organization inside of 30 seconds.”
When he went to pick patients up, Wade would survey their rooms. He started noticing a card from a grandson, flowers from a daughter, a balloon bunch from coworkers.
“I would ask them about it. You start those conversations by finding out what’s important to them and what brings them comfort. And before you know it, they are bringing you comfort,” Wade says. ‘They’re making you feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve got an important role.’”
Wade’s commitment to connecting with patients only grew. And with that, so did his role at the hospital.
Today, nearly 30 years later, Wade is the director of visitor services, overseeing 450 employees at IU Health Methodist and University hospitals. He leads patient transportation, environmental services, guest relations, volunteer services, interpretation, language services and much more.
At each team meeting and with each employee interaction, Wade likes to remind his workers of exactly what it takes to be successful.
“Success is when you can connect with patients and understand what you do is important and touches people directly,” he says. “That lends itself to longevity and it keeps the passion going every day. If you walk in saying, ‘What’s in it for me?’ This isn’t the place for you. It’s ‘What can I contribute today to touch someone’s life?’”
His roots run deep at Methodist
He can’t remember if the lullaby was played on that day in August of 1969, but Wade was born at Methodist Hospital.
“I can say I’ve been here pretty much all my life,” he says.
Growing up in Indianapolis, Wade went to Pike High School. He liked basketball and football. He liked hanging outside in the fresh air.
Methodist was always a part of Wade’s life. His mother worked for a time at the hospital as a nurse’s aide. His aunt worked as a nurse’s aide for more than 30 years at Methodist.
“Methodist is in my blood,” Wade says. “It’s part of who I am.”
Wade will mark his 30th year at Methodist in November, minus a 4-year military leave from 1991 to 1995. When asked what made him stick around all these years, Wade doesn’t hesitate.
“The ability to serve our community. A lot of the people I grew up with and know were dependent upon the services of the IU Health system as far back as I can remember,” he says. “Everybody I know was either born here or had some services here. So, for me, it’s an easy connection point. I just wanted to be a part of something that could contribute to the health and well-being of the community.”
It was clear early on that Wade would be a success, says Pauline Flesch, executive director of rehabilitation and fitness services, who hired Wade as an 18-year-old.
“As a new employee, Kelvin stood out because of his willingness to learn new skills and his eagerness to help his fellow coworkers and the patients,” Flesch says.
People gravitated to Wade. He made them feel comfortable and he was always quick with a smile, she says.
Sometimes, Wade will walk the floors and see patients he’s known for years, for decades. And they will smile.
They remember that young man who took the time to get to know them, who made that connection with them.
And Wade is passing that on as he mentors new staff.
“Along the way I’ve learned a lot of life lessons, but what really impacted me the most were leaders who were willing to invest in me, allowing me to learn and make mistakes and, more than that, provided some guidance,” he says. “So I see the benefits of investing in others and trying to help them along the way. I try to encourage people there is plenty of opportunity to learn and grow here.”
More About Kelvin Wade
Outside of IU Health: Wade is an associate pastor at True Tried Missionary Baptist Church. He is president of the alumni association of Center for Leadership Development, where he also serves on the board.
Education: He gave up his auto mechanic dreams and, instead, earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan University. He is set to complete his MBA in 2018.
Family: Wade is married to wife, LaTasha, who works at University Hospital. The couple met working at Methodist and has two sons, Malik, 23, and Xavier, 19.
Hobbies: Wade is a lover of photography and cooking, the latter taught to him by his grandmother. Among his family’s favorite dishes he cooks is braised short ribs, polenta with asparagus and his chicken marsala.
-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Benbow via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.