There are times when a patient just steals your heart.
That happened to Diana Florence, an administrative support specialist in Rheumatology and Osteoporosis. The person was a long-time patient of Sarah Morgan, M.D., R.D., director of the Osteoporosis Prevention & Treatment Program, for whom Florence works as an assistant. Florence called the patient this past year after she missed one of her appointments — an uncommon event for this woman. The patient was not doing well enough to leave home, so two days later, Florence and Morgan went to her.
“She asked us to come have lunch with her,” Florence says. “She asked us to bring fried chicken and black walnut ice cream. She was a sweet, sweet lady. She was born in 1927, and every conversation when she talked to us, she would tell us she loved us. I became very close to her very quickly.”
The patient passed away a short time later, but not before she got one last meal with her caregivers. It’s that kind of spirit and a desire to help others, co-workers say, that Florence embodies on a daily basis. Colleagues call Florence caring, hard working and a role model — all reasons she is February’s UAB Employee of the Month.
“It says a lot about Diana that she cared enough about the patient to make sure she got something she wanted one last time,” says Ann Eppley, director of Administration and Finance in Rheumatology. “It is that kind of caring and compassion that we would hope to all embody in taking care of our patients. The patients come first with Diana, and they don’t have to be very sick for her to give them the same attention she gave to this lady.
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“She is a role model for all of us who work with her daily.”
Florence says she considers it a privilege to help those in need.
“It just gives you a good feeling to be able to help people,” Florence says.
The help she provides extends beyond patients. Morgan and others say the support she provides them on a daily basis is invaluable. Florence aids several physicians in the Osteoporosis Prevention & Treatment Clinic and the Bone Densitometry service. She provides administrative and/or clinical support for several rheumatologists, including Barri Fessler, M.D., associate professor of medicine, and Amy Warriner, assistant professor of Medicine, Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Maria Danila, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, says Florence was extremely helpful to her shortly after moving to their division from Nutrition Sciences sciences in December 2010. Danila’s assistant went on maternity leave in January 2011, and Florence picked up the workload.
“Diana is one of the hardest-working individuals I have had the privilege of working with,” Danila says. “She took great pride in helping me keep on top of my busy clinical practice and academic duties. Throughout my interactions with her, I have noticed that she genuinely likes her job and would do anything to help people — whether these are patients, other assistants or physicians. And her attitude in performing her job duties is positive at all times.”
Florence’s commitment to completing her job professionally and expertly shows the quality that is present in her day-to-day job performance. She’s reliable, not afraid to take on new endeavors, including learning the IMPACT system, and always ready to serve.
“She is the epitome of a team player,” Morgan says. “She is an exceptionally hard worker and is extremely organized. Diana designed a coverage calendar for herself and shared it with her coworkers to show duties that needed to be covered for vacation days. This tool reminds the clerical staff about their duties, which include answering phones and faxes, managing the message center and taking charts to clinic, and it shows the physicians who to contact when their support is out on vacation.”
Florence also serves as the division’s party planner for special occasions. It’s not uncommon for her to bring in balloons and a signed card for each faculty and staff member’s birthday. She and Morgan also regularly plan parties for coworkers for special occasions. Florence even made homemade ice cream for one of the celebrations.
“These parties really help in building employee morale,” Morgan says.
Florence is appreciative her colleagues took the time to nominate her for the award, but she says her recognition is a reflection of the people she works with.
“I truly do not understand how I was singled out for this honor,” Florence says. “I work with so many hard-working employees. They are all so good and we work so well together. It’s a good team. We support each other. I’m fortunate to work with some wonderful people.”