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June 3, 2014
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

More than 700 employees to be honored at Upstate’s Employee Recognition Day June 5

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Upstate Medical University will recognize more than 700 employees for their employment anniversary with the institution and at the top of the list is Sally Gray, RN, who celebrates half a century of service this year.

Gray and others will be honored June 5 at Upstate’s Employee Recognition Day luncheon, saluting employees for their 10-year and five-year incremental milestone of service, as of June 30.

Gray, a registered nurse, works in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) at the Downtown Campus. However, growing up, she had other career plans.

“I always wanted to be a chemical engineer,” Gray noted. “I have always been fascinated how this makes that, how hydrogen and oxygen makes water.”

When a new vocational school opened in Syracuse and accepted her into its nursing program, which was her second choice behind chemical engineering, she entered.

“I decided to give it [nursing] some time,” she said. “At age 14 I went to an OB unit and watched a birth, and then it started to grow on me.”

She graduated with her high school diploma as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in 1962. Shortly after graduation, she began working at the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse before accepting a higher-paid position at the Good Shepard Hospital in 1963, earning $1.80 per hour.

“I worked on a medical floor at the Good Shepard while the new hospital was being built downtown,” recalls Gray. “When we moved to the new hospital, it was like going to a palace.”

Since walking through the doors of what is now Upstate University Hospital for the first time in 1965, Gray has worked as a LPN, staff nurse, orientation in-service manager, and clinical manager. During her 50-year career, she also became a registered nurse and earned her bachelor’s degree.

“I got my degree by taking classes during the day, working in the ICU at night, and still had three sons and a husband to care for,” said Gray. “Students were allowed to take up to 12 credits, but I did 16.”

From 1965 to 1980, Gray worked in the ICU and has worked since 1980 in the PACU. In 2000, she left her clinical manager position to become a part-time staff nurse.

During her 50-year career at Upstate, Gray looks back on her memories and cherishes time spent with patients and their families most fondly.

“My greatest memories are those working with good, kind people who show compassion. I love that feeling of knowing you made a difference, especially when a patient asks if you are going to come to their room after being discharged to another unit.”

Gray admits that nursing has changed since her early days in nursing when she wore a white cap, white uniform and white stockings. And she suspects that change will again change 50 years from now.

“I think sicker patients will be in the hospital because we’re living longer, and the baby boomers are aging,” Gray notes. “How will we take care of them?”

Today, as a part-time staff nurse on the same unit where she has served for 34 years, Gray thanks several people who helped her during her 50-year career.

“Sally Johnson first hired me at the Good Shepard, Alice Riley and Joan Rifkin were my supervisors, and my PACU colleagues Linda Robson and Donna Brown – they all influenced me and guided me in the right direction.”

Despite not fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a chemical engineer, today, at age 70, Gray couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I absolutely love what I do.”

Caption: Sally Gray, a registered nurse in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at the Downtown Campus, will be recognized for 50 years of service at Upstate’s annual Employee Recognition Day luncheon June 5.

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