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A trailblazer says goodbye

Sandy Sears retires after decades at Jackson Hospital

Erick Johnson | 6/23/2014, 10:13 a.m.
After 39 years, Sandy Sears is finally being released from Jackson Memorial hospital. She is checking out and is listed ...
Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Barbara Jordan honored Sears (center) with a proclamation as Jackson Board Chairman Daryl Sharpton looks on at her retirement party last week.

After 39 years, Sandy Sears is finally being released from Jackson Memorial hospital. She is checking out and is listed in excellent condition.

Sears will leave the busy halls of Miami-Dade’s largest public hospital when she retires in two weeks as senior vice president at Jackson North Medical System, a 382-bed community hospital that’s part of the Jackson Health System’s $1.5 billion-a-year network.

Sears was one of few remaining Black employees at Jackson who witnessed segregation and progress at the hospital. Her career spanned decades as she served under six of the hospital’s chief executive officers. She ends her career with much pride and notable achievements.

“It’s been a magical and fantastic journey,” said Sears. “I have been able to touch so many lives. This place (Jackson) is so dynamic.”

A GRAND SENDOFF

It will be the second chapter in the life of the popular administrator, who has been busy attending a whirlwind of retirement celebrations in the past several weeks. The largest celebration came last week when colleagues, prominent business leaders and politicians gave Sears a grand sendoff party at the hospital. They congratulated and thanked Sears with gifts, proclamations and honors from various cities and municipalities.

Among the guests were county commissioners Barbara Jordan, Audrey Edmonson, Jean Monestime, District 2 School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mingdigall, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, State Rep. Cynthia Stafford, former Congressman Kendrick Meek, Bishop Victor T. Curry and Reverend Dr. Billy Strange Jr.

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Sears was given her own customized Miami Heat jersey during her sendoff.

The event was bittersweet to Sears’ colleagues who praised her as a warm and gentle humanitarian who managed Jackson’s vast hospital operations with professionalism and compassion. Many shared heartfelt memories of Sears’ sacrifices and dedication to helping patients. The speeches left many teary-eyed as they hugged and said goodbye to her as she embarks on a new phase of her life.

AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER

But with every beginning there is an ending. Sears retirement at the end of June will cap an illustrious and inspiring career at Jackson Memorial Hospital. A Miami Northwestern graduate, she received her Master’s degree from Northwestern University. She was hired in 1975 as an assistant administrator after an internship at Jackson and later would be promoted three times within the next three years. Despite civil rights efforts that overturned Jim Crow laws, Jackson’s staff and patient rooms were still mainly segregated. Some progress was made, but not enough to many Blacks. Many remember the segregated Woodard Building and the East Wing. Black patients then were in rooms known as the “colored wards”.

Many credited Sears with helping to desegregate these areas during her career. She is also credited with increasing the number of Blacks in the hospital’s workforce. Sears would later be promoted four more times before becoming senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Jackson North.

In addition to being a hospital executive, Sears has become somewhat of a historian about Jackson Hospital. She recalled six of the hospital’s last CEOs whom she worked under. They include Charles Nordwall, Fred Cowell, Ira Clark, Marvin O’Quinn, Eneida Roldan and current CEO Carlos Migoya.