Employee Spotlight: Claudia Hardy
Q: How or why did you choose this career?
A: I think this career chose me. I’ve always had an interest in health, education, and human services but couldn’t really define the job for me. I had a love for communications, organizing, and developing programs. So I majored in communications studies with a concentration in public relations in my undergraduate studies at UAB.
Employment was difficult in this field in the early ‘90s. I took a temp job in surgical pathology administration to pay the bills, but it also gave me on-the-job knowledge about diseases. It opened my eyes to the biopsy process and tissue sampling. This administrative support position allowed me to go to school at night while obtaining a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in organizational behavior. In 1994, I took a position with Geriatric Medicine/The Continence Program, and I began recruiting minorities into clinical trials. The rest is history.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: My job and roles are constantly evolving. I like that part, but it keeps me on my toes in getting others to understand community outreach and engagement. As a result, I spend a lot of time helping colleagues figure it out.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The versatility and the diversity of my day-to-day responsibilities. No two days are the same. I like that, because I am easily bored (lol).
Q: Favorite quote to live by:
A: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” – Luke 12:48
Q: For someone seeking a career like yours, what would you tell them makes O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center special?
A: The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center is a special place to work if you want to constantly grow and learn new things. I’ve been fortunate to have a seat at the table, as a lot of discoveries have taken place in the nearly 25 years I’ve been employed here.
Q: How have you grown your career at O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center?
A: My career here has grown exponentially. I started as a program manager II, then a program director III, and in the last year, I became a full-time faculty member in the UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology, with a director’s role at O’Neal.
Q: What or who inspires you?
A: I grew up in rural Dallas County, Ala., where my father’s jobs didn’t provide health insurance until I was 16 years old. I am also a first-generation college graduate, so I have direct lived experiences as someone who was medically underserved and lived in a food desert. We hear all of these terms daily, which are social determinants of health. All of these are a major part of my daily work.
Also, my late mother, France Smiley Hardy, and her best friend, the late Eunice Bennett Towns, both inspired me to work hard and be kind. “You can make it” was the advice they gave me. Lastly, it’s important that I leave a legacy for my nieces and nephews, along with future generations interested in a career in outreach and engagement.
Q: What do you do on a typical day off?
A: I love being outside, so anything that allows me to be outdoors and get fresh air, such as gardening, walking at the park (not as much I like), traveling, and spending time with family and friends. I would like to learn how to watch TV for more than an hour.
Q: What is one accomplishment you are especially proud of?
A: The ability to recruit and retain a number of community health advisors for over 20 years. It is this commitment to the people that gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment. Because of my commitment, I am the longest serving employee in the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.
Q: Is there any memorable experience at O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center you would like to share?
A: On a trip to Panola County, Miss. in the early 2000s (before GPS and Google maps on our cell phones), I made a wrong turn on a road that looked like it may have had a ravine on either side. It was dark, with no signs of civilization. Needless to say, we had to buy a GPS for the office.
Q: Before working at O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
A: I had to organize and file pathology slides in small trays in a file cabinet. They were glass and had glue on them. It was a humbling experience.
Q: Are there any O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center members you would like to recognize?
A: I couldn’t do my work without the support of O’Neal leadership and the Community Outreach and Engagement program team. I am indebted to Ed Partridge, M.D., a former O’Neal director and one of the founders. For over 17 years, I worked under his leadership. He understood and modeled true engagement at all levels.