Inspiring Others to Seek Social Change
One in an ongoing series
Every employee at Einstein Healthcare Network has an official title that describes their duties. Katey Graff, for instance, is an occupational therapist at MossRehab whose job is to make sure patients can perform the tasks of daily living before discharge.
Graff is also one of those employees who has an informal title that describes her role above and beyond her duties. She is the conscience of her department. Graff is the office activist who rallies her coworkers around issues of injustice and discrimination, raising consciousness and advocating for change.
“I grew up in a family that believed in – if you see something, say something,” Graff says. So, she does.
On the issue of LGBTQ rights, for instance, she participated in a training at Einstein’s Pride Clinic so she could help her department be sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community. She’s also the go-to person for questions about use of sensitive language and other issues.
When George Floyd was murdered by Police Officer Derek Chauvin, Graff and her coworkers participated in Einstein’s demonstration for racial justice, holding aloft signs in support of Black Lives Matter.
And then there was the department’s massive effort during the holiday season last year on behalf of the homeless.
“I take public transportation every day and I see homeless people,” Graff says. So she requested other members of her department donate and fill bags with nonperishable food, toiletries, socks, underwear and other things and deliver them to people on the street.
She and her colleagues filled scores of bags during the department holiday lunch and handed them out to homeless individuals they encountered. Graff personally delivered them to homeless people at Suburban Station and to the now-disbanded encampment at 21st Street and the Parkway.
Graff has since helped organize an ongoing outreach group in her department that has taken on food insecurity as its first project. Group members are coordinating their efforts with Einstein’s Fresh for All, a weekly distribution of free fresh produce.
“I give my department so much credit,” Graff says. “Everyone is always open about having discussions, no one is defensive, everyone is learning and changing. It’s very refreshing.”
Oh, and Graff also co-founded a department book club.
Graff says her parents instilled in her their ethos of civic engagement. “My family did a lot of service; they were very big in the church,” she says. “We were in charge of the pantry – we’d collect food and sort it. My favorite thing to do every year was to pack Thanksgiving boxes and deliver them with my dad.”
Graff had a less pleasant childhood experience that, in any case, inspired her choice of career. She had spinal surgery at the age of 13 for severe scoliosis – curvature of the spine. It led to embarrassment at school over her limited mobility, dependence on others, and need for special accommodations.
She enjoyed the physical therapy, though, and when she was contemplating a career after high school, she decided to pursue occupational therapy.
Graff says she evaluates patients to determine whether they’re ready for discharge by assessing “all different aspects – cognition, vision, balance, strength – through everyday tasks, such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, sitting in bed, eating breakfast,” she says.
“I make a recommendation as to whether they need acute rehabilitation or if they can go home and if so, what services do they need at home,” Graff says. “I like to call it detective work, trying to figure out what is the safest, most effective option.”
That’s what she does in her official capacity, when she’s not advocating for social justice. Graff received a Martin Luther King Keeper of the Dream award this year for her advocacy on behalf of marginalized and minority groups – for being, in other words, the conscience of her department.
“We want our department to be a beacon of change,” she says.