Each April, we recognize Celebrate Diversity Month by providing opportunities to grow in our understanding about lived experiences through the lens of race, religion, and culture by sharing stories highlighting WellSpan team members. This year, we are elevating two identity attributes, disabilities and Asian culture, by sharing perspectives of team members who hold those identities.
Through Jacki Roderick’s eyes, everyone should be accepted for what makes them unique.
Her view has always been different from many others, and she’s reminded of that each day she looks in the mirror.
Jacki is impacted by Duane Syndrome, which affects the muscles of her left eye and in some ways makes her functionally blind.
While eyewear helps Jacki limit any visual impairment, there hasn’t always been a way to control bias or bullying directed at her for looking different.
“When you're a kid, your eyes are bigger in your head and I didn't wear glasses, so it was a lot more noticeable to other kids,” said Jacki, a chaplain at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. “I often felt alone, and it obviously bothered me.”
Despite Jacki’s challenges, the disability that affects her the most is rarely seen.
A lesion on Jacki’s spinal cord from neurosarcoidosis, sometimes causes her feet to go numb and impacts her walking. It can also lead to extreme fatigue, whole body inflammation, pain, and skin lesions.
“I bet 99% of the people I interact with wouldn't even know, but it can lead to very difficult days of just walking around the hospital, let alone trying to concentrate on what others are sharing with me,” explained Jacki, who offers spiritual guidance and pastoral care to patients and their families through her chaplaincy.
For Jacki, it has always been about leveraging the strengths found in the things that make her different. When she became sensitive to how others viewed her at an early age, it motivated her to be more inclusive and provide hope to others.
Whether it’s been different faiths and religions she encountered during her six-plus years of being a pastor or supporting the LGBTQIA+ community as a mother and aunt, diversity has always surrounded Jacki.
And her reactions have always been the same.
“I am the person who is there for people when they need someone the most,” Jacki said.
That sometimes meant making the sacrifice of excluding herself for promoting the inclusion of others.
According to Jacki, her inclusive spirit led to a bump in the road during her pastoral career where she felt “broken” and unsure of the next step in her professional journey.
In 2015, she enrolled in WellSpan’s Chaplain Residency Program, which pumped new life into her career aspirations and provided healing as well.
“WellSpan has been a safe place to work. No matter what is going on with me physically, I'm grateful to work in a place that allows me to make space for my illness and get work done as I can and need to,” Jacki said.
She added her career at WellSpan hit a new high last year when she joined the Inclusion Champion Training Program.
While she has always been inclusive, Jacki says she has learned more effective ways to take an active role in promoting equity and disrupting bias.
“I don’t want to live my life as a bystander. I want to make a difference because I have experienced firsthand that bias and discrimination can be even more debilitating than an actual disability,” Jacki said.