Jamaican-born Marcia Cole Saunders has been in the health care field for 23 years.
Family friend Registered Nurse Merle Warren, a previous Healthcare Award recipient, directed Cole-Saunders to Brownsville Development Corporation. This became her first United States job after leaving Jamaica when she was 35.
At the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center (BMS), she first worked as a receptionist in the OB / GN department, and then while she earned her B.S. in human service she work as a case manager with individuals with HIV / AIDS.
Straight away she went on and received a graduate degree in public administration.
Cole-Saunders worked with adolescents with mental health illnesses for five years as associate director at ILC (Institute for Community Living) returning to BMS and her current position as a home health supervisor. She also is a senior program supervisor, part-time with ILC.
She explained why she chose this field, “As a teenager, I saw individuals in Jamaica experience poor health and had needs that I was not able to assist. Helping others and showing that I care is my passion.”
Caring goes way beyond her job. For five years, Cole-Saunders and her son three-times-a-year send barrels — paid from their own pocket — of oil, rice, flour and canned goods to shut-ins, elderly with no family and other needy residents of Clarendon.
She manages by buying items on sale and says, “A friend gives me a discount on the backpacks, part of the August school supply delivery.” She personally helps distribute the goods.
Also, Cole-Saunders encourages young people here and in Jamaica to be health aware. “There are about nine who look forward to my visits,” she said, when she has talks about life and safer sex. While there, she distributes condoms to young adults — in their 20s and 30s.
Having previously sponsored three young girls for their school uniforms and other school expenses, she is now doing the same for a 13-year-old young man, attending technical high school and passionate about his education. “His parents are HIV positive,” she said.
Cole-Saunders cites her father as the most influential person in her career. “He taught me to be independent and to strive for the best and to love and be compassionate to others. He was always helping needy individuals and this made an impact on me.”
“I enjoy working with mental health illness children — I just love them,” Cole-Saunders said. “And, I’m planning on getting my social work degree.”