You know those people who smile when they talk? Who radiate warmth and a feel-good energy and make you want to be a better person?
Torrance Memorial Medical Center, in the business of making people better, has many of them on its team. And for the third time in six years, the national "Hospital Hero" spotlight has shown on one-a physical therapist known for excellent care, compassion and overall positivity. Translation: Big smile, warm heart, great energy.
Tami Ramsey, a 14-year veteran, recently accepted the Hospital Hero nomination during a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles. Presented by the National Health Foundation and the Hospital Association of Southern California, the Hospital Hero Awards give hospitals the opportunity to nominate their unsung heroes and showcase their outstanding achievements.
After the ceremony, Ramsey wasn't the only one beaming.
"Tami is a beacon of light," said one colleague. "You can see why patients love her," said another.
On the day of this interview, Ramsey is wearing her Hospital Hero lapel pin. Although we had agreed she would eat her lunch during the noon interview, she barely takes a bite. There's just too much to talk about. And Ramsey is still on a Hospital Hero-high.
"I read that only 14% percent of Americans love their jobs," she says. "I LOVE what I do. It took time to find my passion, but I'm so lucky to practice what I've been put here to do."
Five days a week, Ramsey is in the rehab gym, helping patients inch closer to their goal-of returning to a golf game or picking up a grandchild after an injury. A runner might visualize winning a race, an NBA star sinking the buzzer basket. Ramsey encourages a stroke patient to visualize walking again. "Visualization releases good chemicals. One of my stroke patients just told me that he had walked home from the gym last week. Talk about a gift!-I've found life's gift to me."
Ramsey initially toyed with a career in dental hygiene. But in the end, that route wasn't for her, and she left school to reassess. Before long, a new path was taking shape. The 1984 Olympic Games drew her in as a physical therapist technician. She was intrigued. Soon she had enrolled at a community college and transferred to UCLA with a 3.9 GPA and a full scholarship. She went on to earn a Master's degree from Western University of Health Science.
Even after she was hired at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, she continued studying. A year-long orthopedics course yielded an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist certification-something only 5% percent of physical therapists have, Ramsey says.
A Neuro-Developmental Treatment certification (qualifying her to work with stroke patients) and BASI Mat Pilates certification (also used in her PT work) followed. Each of these studies today serves to advance a holistic, individualized approach to patient care.
Ramsey's thirst for learning and improvement extends beyond her job. She stays active. Beach-front living allows for kayaking, boogie-boarding and-her latest obsession-standup paddle boarding, along with training for an upcoming half-marathon. And she stays hungry for spiritual growth; (she's in the middle of a four-year course to become a licensed spiritual practitioner).
Sharing her learnings is equally important. At work, she taught her department how to incorporate Pilates into their therapy. And away from work, early in 2012, Ramsey will join a team of healthcare professionals in a Haitian hospital for a week to perform wheelchair assessments and training in using crutches through a SHINE Humanity mission.
"I want to be a beneficial presence on this planet. I want to bring value to my relationships," Ramsey says. "I start the day with meditation, and I try to speak, act and listen with love. My dad instilled that in me. He enjoyed helping people, and I was his shadow. I like to think I'm a lot like him."
Her dad-her hero-is now gone, and more recently she found herself single after years of marriage. But, she says, she's never been more excited about living. "I feel like my life is really taking off. Every morning, before my feet hit the ground, I surround myself in a cocoon of love, find my center and shine my light. That's how I want to live my life."
As we finish the interview with Ramsey telling me what surrounds her figuratively, I can't help but notice what surrounds her literally.
A water bottle with a single printed word: YES. Ramsey smiles.