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Elmer Sellers’ retirement reception is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the 10th floor solarium of the USA Medical Center. All are invited to attend.
Assistant Administrator Elmer Sellers seen a lot in his 32 years of serving the USA Medical Center. He’s witnessed and worked on exciting property acquisitions, health care achievements, and new construction at both the University and with the Health System. He’s helped the Medical Center cope with dozens of damaging hurricanes, several fires and horrific events such as the Amtrack train derailing in 1993.
The diverse responsibilities he enjoyed in 32 years kept the job more than interesting, he says.
“The challenges every day were different,” Sellers says. “I could go from worrying about the wax on the floor with Environmental Services to managing issues for the cath lab, radiology or pharmacy.“
Before working at USA Medical Center, Sellers graduated high school and joined the U.S. Navy, where he would keep U.S. naval planes in tip-top shape as an aviation structural mechanic. After a four-year tour, he became a Prichard police officer-turned- detective while earning a criminal justice degree. Eventually he found employment working security at Providence Hospital. In 1982, Sellers joined USA Medical Center as its safety and security manager.
One of his most memorable moments happened while he oversaw all of the hospital’s mandatory fire safety training classes. Employees would chuckle at one particular point in the class, when the film's actors demonstrated the "drop and drag," a technique used during the fire to quickly lower immobile patients onto a blanket on the floor and drag them to safety. The move prevents possible injury in trying to carry a patient.
Months later, a fire caused the ninth floor to fill with smoke and required quick evacuation of all patients.
“I was here while the fire was being put out,” Sellers recalled. “A nurse walked up to me and told me, ‘You know, I laughed at that film, but today I had to do that. Thank you for teaching me that.’ That was one of the highlights of my career.”
After a couple of years in the position, Sellers was given additional responsibilities and oversaw communications, earning him the title of Director of Public Services. After a promotion to Director of Materials Management, Sellers was instrumental in moving the Medical Center’s materials management system from a manual filing process to a computerized one.
Sellers would be honored with the title of Alabama’s materials manager of the year in 1993, right before his promotion to assistant administrator.
“That’s an honor that I cherish,” he says.
In his 21 years as assistant administrator, Sellers has overseen almost every hospital department. The University’s purchase of the old Doctor’s Hospital and transforming it into USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital was memorable.
“Doing the due diligence between announcement and final acquisition was a lot of fun,” he recalled. When asked what he prides himself on, Sellers names his knowing by name the people who actually accomplish the good work of the hospital, including bedside nurses, housekeepers, and maintenance crews.
“Each of them is as important to me as the head of clinical departments, as far as getting our job done here,” he says. “They know that when I walk down the hall, I’m going to speak to them. I’ve always taken pride in knowing people and being as personable as possible.”
“Over the 32 years that Elmer Sellers has been with the Medical Center, he has risen through the ranks while advancing his education demonstrating not only his skill set, but his dedication to self-enlightenment and growth. Elmer's wealth of knowledge and experience cannot easily, if ever, be replaced. He has been dedicated to not only support of our patients, but our employees. Elmer knows the names, family history and other tidbits of almost every employee within his departments and many of those not in his departments.
"He helped us develop the employee recognition program and started the photographic portrait recognition program. Elmer knows this building like the back of his hand and has been instrumental in keeping it safe, clean and updated. He has worked hard on community relations and led the effort on the Mobile Street Project creating the first design concepts and taking the project to the next step.
"We will miss Elmer's ability to see situations in a different light and his love and dedication to the Medical Center. He is leaving a hole and big shoes to fill. I am personally grateful for the 24 years I have worked with Elmer and learned so much from him. I have always appreciated his point of view, but most of all, his support and friendship. It will be hard for me come November 1st to fill that void.”
-Hospital Administrator Beth Anderson
"Elmer has a wealth of knowledge, accumulated through many years of experience. He is calm in all situations and has been a true joy to work with.”
-Assistant Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Mestas
"What I liked most about Elmer as a boss was his willingness to allow me to challenge the status quo.”
-Assistant to the Administrator Warren Greene
A photography enthusiast since his days as Citronelle High School’s year book photographer, one of the contributions Sellers is known for at the Medical Center is his quality photography and video work. The last few years have been particularly involved for Sellers’ camera, including work that lines the half of the Medical Center, individual portraits for employees receiving special recognitions, and promotional videos for the hospital.
"Having a role like that has meant a lot to me,” he says.
One particular photo Sellers produced is of the sun rising between downtown Mobile’s tallest skyscrapers. It took several tries to get this, as the sun doesn’t normally rise between the highest points of downtown (if you’re looking at it from the top of the Medical Center).
Of the piece, Elmer quotes famous American photographer Ansel Adams: “’You don’t take a great photograph, you make a great photograph.’ A lot of work went into making that photo.”
In retirement, Sellers plans on spending time with his family, wood carving, taking more photos and teaching more woodworking and photography classes. “There are a couple of coffee table photo books that I want to put together.”
Sellers says he will sorely miss the people of the Medical Center. He will always appreciate those who are dedicated to the hospital’s mission to provide quality health care to the Mobile region.
"We have people who will leave this place seeking greener grass somewhere else, and within a year they’re back,” he says. “People believe in what we do here, and that’s very refreshing.
"That’s the hard part about doing this. I’m eager to go home and do the things I want to do and be with my wife and family, but the hard part is leaving people that I have worked with and had become family with in a totally different sort of way.
"I’m extremely close to people whom I’ve worked with, some as long as 30 years. I know the bonds will not be the same in the future, but I hope to maintain relationships with them. I’ll shed a tear on Friday.”
Sellers plans on keeping in touch with his former co-workers via social media. “Ongoing communication -- that’s the beauty of the technology we have today.”
Sellers’ retirement reception is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the 10th floor solarium of the USA Medical Center. All are invited to attend.
About the University of South Alabama Medical Center
The University of South Alabama Medical Center offers patient-centered care to the central Gulf Coast with unique services including Mobile’s only Level I Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center, plus Centers of Excellence in stroke care and cardiovascular diseases, and a wide range of acute care services.
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