Norman White, second from left, with his food service teammates.
(New Brunswick) – Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Food and Nutrition Services Team member Norman White had two reasons to celebrate recently – he became a US citizen and his teammates honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award within the same week!
White recently completed requirements for US citizenship just in time to vote in the last election. To add to the celebration, the Food and Nutrition Service team honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the department in recognition of his many years of dedicated service to RWJUH and his commitment to customer satisfaction and overall excellence.
A member of the RWJUH family for over 30 years, White began working in the food and nutrition service while a student at Franklin High School. A teacher there hooked him up with human resources at RWJUH and he worked his way up to be a chef.
“I told the English teacher at the time, Ms. Survivorville, that I would like to work and that she knew one of the Human Resources staff at RWJUH,” White recalled. “She hooked me up with Jack (Assistant Director of Food and Nutrition Services Jack Jego) and Tony (Director of Food and Nutrition Services Tony Almeida) and I’ve been here ever since.”
After he got the job at RWJUH, White began serving trays of food to patients’ rooms. “It took him a couple of weeks to get used to it,” he admits, but he soon found that he enjoyed connecting with patients and families.
About 10 years into his career, Almeida encouraged him to start training to be a chef.
“I fell in love with it instantly,” White said. “I’ve always loved cooking at home in Jamaica.”
He enjoys taking on the challenge of cooking for the hundreds of employees and visitors who visit the RWJUH Dining Room each day, but also loves to cook traditional Jamaican dishes like oxtail soup and hash brown chicken when he’s not at work.
Although White had been in the United States since he was a child and had worked at RWJUH for nearly three decades, he was not a US citizen. He started preparing for the citizenship exam after his mother encouraged him to do so.
“My mom was the biggest influence,” he explained. “She explained to me all the advantages that I would have as a citizen and what I would miss.”
For a month, White studied a list of 100 questions and had to successfully complete the test with 10 chosen at random from the pool. He passed away and was excited to vote in his first election in November.
Over the years, colleagues have asked him if he would be interested in working in a different department. Not a chance, White says.
“Our team is great – I can’t see myself working in another department,” he said. “I like it here.”
And remember how the department came together to keep the hospital running during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People were working double shifts almost every day to keep the department running,” White said. “Everyone came together (to respond to the crisis).”
Norman is particularly proud of his son and three daughters. The eldest, Melissa, is currently studying at Duke University School of Medicine. Her goal is to become an anesthesiologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital one day.
“I always tell my kids to treat people the way you would like to be treated – it will always come back to you one day,” White said.
About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) New Brunswick, a 614-bed RWJBarnabas Health Facility, is the largest academic medical center in New Jersey through its deep partnership with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical College. RWJUH is the flagship cancer hospital of the Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey. Its other centers of excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplants, cancer care, stroke care, neurology, orthopedics, bariatric surgery, women’s and children’s care, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital Robert Wood Johnson University (www.bmsch.org). A Level I trauma center and the first dedicated pediatric trauma center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its leading emergency preparedness curriculum.
Contact: Peter Heaney