A Welcome Boost for One Who Worked Her Way Up
This is the third in a special series of Einstein Untold profiles in celebration of Women’s History Month. The featured women are innovators. They pursue unlikely dreams. They’re stand-outs with spirit and strength and stand-ins for all the women of Einstein Healthcare Network.
For most of her life, Debbie Young has made her own luck. She was a high school dropout who took jobs that were a stretch, and grew into them. Her dedication and work ethic gathered mentors along the way – and that has proven lucky, too.
Young is now the practice manager of the Department of Ophthalmology at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and Einstein Medical Center Elkins Park. She always wanted to be in the medical field and, after getting her GED, started taking college classes at night.
No matter that Young is now 57, a mother and grandmother, the caretaker of her own ailing mother, and has a full-time job. With student loans and financial aid from Einstein, she started taking courses at DeVry University in 2015. One class at a time. Straight A’s.
“As tiring as it was for me to work my eight- to 10-hour days, I’d drive home, take off my day clothes, put on my pajamas and fire up my laptop,” she says.
‘Something Woke Up in Me’
The classes not only offered Young the opportunity to complete her education, but they awakened a thirst for knowledge and a capacity for learning she didn’t know she had.
“Once I started taking classes, something woke up in me,” she says. “I started channeling this brain. If I only knew earlier what I was capable of, I would have done this a long time ago.”
Young quit school when she was 18, got married and had children. When she later returned to work, she went from part-time medical receptionist at a physician’s practice to full-time ophthalmology technician at Einstein, each time propelled to the next level by managers who appreciated her work.
When the office supervisor in ophthalmology left and the position was eliminated, she stepped into the role without the title. “I’m not just going to sit back and let things go,” she says. “I step up to the plate to make patients and employees within the department happy.” Her effort was very much appreciated by Vincent Young, MD, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology (no relation to Debbie Young), who became her “biggest mentor.”
“When he saw that I had grown into a leadership position, he mentored me into becoming a leader: how I should act, how I should present myself, what I needed to learn at school, how to be an administrator,” she says.
Financial Problems – and a Solution
And then, last year, a series of misfortunes struck. Young’s government education grant ran out and she could no longer afford tuition.
Young and her husband, Michael, had bought a bigger house so her brother and her ailing mother could move in with them “Finances have been very hard because of taking on a bigger home and the responsibilities of taking care of a sick mom,” Young says. Michael, who’s retired from the US Navy, was out of work for a year after they moved into the new house. He finally found a job, but COVID substantially cut into his hours.
Young had to stop taking classes in June of 2020. “I was so upset,” she says. “As old as I am, I don’t want to just end where I’m at. I’m compelled to finish.”
In January, Young learned about a $5,000 Paradigm Scholarship for Working Women from the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Sasha Voce, Einstein’s Laboratory Director and the administrator of Young’s department, encouraged her to apply.
“Sasha has been pushing me to go back to school,” Young says. Voce helped Young craft the admission essay, pushing her beyond her usual modesty to stress her accomplishments and the reasons she deserved the scholarship.
On February 4 – Young’s beloved late grandmother’s birthday – Young was notified she received the scholarship. She’s now enrolled back in class at the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University and is scheduled to complete classes in May of 2022.
“Einstein has been good to me for 20 years,” she says, “and I want to be an administrator here, and pay them back.” With the luck of her own making, the support of her husband and family, and the friends she’s made along the way, that’s not even a stretch.