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BIDMC Receives 2009 Business Leadership Award from Jewish Vocational Services

Award recognizes medical center’s investment in programs that benefit employee advancement

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) was honored by Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) with the 2009 Business Leadership Award during its Spring Gala at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston on Tuesday, April 28.

The award recognizes BIDMC's considerable investment in its employees through initiatives such as BIDMC's five pipeline programs, which train employees for higher paying jobs in health care, and the Employee Career Initiative, a service providing one-on-one career and academic counseling and free on-site pre-college and college-level science courses.

"It was such an honor to receive this award from JVS," said Lisa Zankman, Senior Vice President of Human Resources. "We work hard to create programs that enable employees to have opportunities for personal and professional advancement while continuing to work and support their families."

In 2008, BIDMC partnered with the JVS Healthcare Training Institute to provide four different levels of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), English Pronunciation, and citizenship classes. From Left: Maria Carter, Environmental Services; Ababu Tolla, Perioperative; Paul Levy, President and CEO; Marie Lambert, Environmental Services;

Ababu Tolla, a BIDMC employee in the Perioperative department who helps with cleaning and sterilizing the ORs after procedures, was a guest at the award gala and said he benefited immensely from the ESOL classes.

"I was scared when I started this job because of my lack of communication skills," said Tolla, who began as a transporter before advancing to the OR. "My managers always advised me to go to the classes."

Tolla, who came to the United States from Ethiopia three years ago only speaking his native language of Amharic, now said he's at level 4 in his ESOL class.

"BIDMC really encourages people to learn," said Tolla. "When I first started working in the OR, I said to my manager, 'I can do whatever you tell me but I have a communication problem.' She said, 'Don't worry about communication, we will help you.'"

Tolla plans on taking U.S. citizenship classes next year.

Accepting the 2009 Business Leadership award was BIDMC President and CEO Paul Levy. While introducing him City Council President Michael Ross said, "The leadership at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center understands the importance that higher education plays in advancing a career path."

In accepting the award, Levy stressed the role Workforce Development Director Joanne Pokaski played in creating these programs.

"By collaborating with organizations like JVS, The Boston Foundation and others, Joanne has put together an outstanding program so reflective of the core values that were established at BIDMC over 100 years ago," Levy said.

Earlier that night, Levy had purchased a raffle ticket and was supplied with a blinking light in the shape of flower for his lapel. While he was on stage accepting the award he said it would be unseemly after such an honor to also take a raffle prize. He told the crowd that should he win, the prize would go to Pokaski.

"In the event that I don't win," Levy said, "Joanne will get the button, because one shining light deserves another."