“Hats” Helps Open Doors to Future Health Careers

Hats_AdamsBy Cassandra Sura

When Reginald “Hats” Adams, director of community affairs, joined Rush 45 years ago, diversity wasn’t a common term, and making an effort to maintain a culture of inclusion where everyone has equal access to opportunities was not a performance goal for all employees, as it is today. Nonetheless, Adams strived to promote diversity through his work and in his life, not because it was required, but simply because he felt it was the right thing to do.

In the 1980s, Adams saw there was a disparity in the science and math education that children were receiving in some areas of Chicago, including West Side neighborhoods around Rush. Since science and math are the core tenets of careers in health care, kids with limited education and exposure to those subjects have less of an opportunity to choose a health care profession. Working with the leadership at Rush, Adams initiated the Science and Math Education (SAME) Network, which engages children in these subjects at a young age by providing schools with training and equipment to improve how they teach science and math.

“He wanted to fill a void in the education of young people and prepare them for careers in the areas of math, science, technology and health care,” says Paula Brown, manager of Equal Opportunity Programs at Rush.

With the support of Rush leadership and his staff, Adams led the charge, obtaining grants from companies to build science labs in schools, providing mentoring to teachers, developing after-school programs and forming science and math clubs.

Adams reflects on the program, saying, “In 1990, we built our first science lab in an elementary school. One of the results was that kids were getting to school earlier and were enjoying learning. In time, more kids from the West Side began to be able to participate in regional science fairs.”

Today, the SAME Network includes 45 elementary schools, six high schools, 14 churches and local businesses. Elida Bader, RN, received a nursing scholarship through the SAME Network and has been working in nursing at ever since.

“I hadn’t considered nursing as a profession until I heard about the scholarship and the opportunity to work in the nursing units during summer breaks from school to learn more about it,” Bader says. “I ended up graduating from Rush’s nursing program and have been in various nursing roles here for the past 20 years.”

In his 45 years at Rush, Adams has led many initiatives, in addition to the SAME Network, that have been influential in reducing disparities in Rush’s surrounding community. His work was honored in February, when he received the annual  J. Robert Clapp, Jr. Diversity Leadership Award as part of annual Diversity Week events.

The Clapp award is named for late executive vice president and executive director of University Hospitals, who died last August. Clapp also was chair of the Diversity Leadership Council, which sponsors Diversity Week. The award honors members of the community who have made important contributions to furthering Rush’s progress toward its mission of enhancing excellence in patient care, education, research and community service for the diverse communities of the Chicago area.

Adams credited his staff and the leaders at Rush for the success of the SAME program and other initiatives. “There is a special place in my house for this award,” he said.

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