May is Duke Appreciation, a month-long celebration of nearly 41,000 staff and faculty members who work across the university and health system.
This year, Duke honors 3,080 employees with career milestones of 10 to 55 years, in five-year increments. Known as Duke Stars, staff and faculty range from the nearly 1,000 who are marking a decade at Duke to two employees celebrating 55 years.
Working@Duke caught up with some of the Duke Stars to gather their stories about what they appreciate about working at Duke.
Associate Professor of Sustainability with the Nicholas School for the Environment
10 Years at Duke
For the past decade, Xavier Basurto has sat back and smiled as he watched relationships flourish between Duke students and fishers living in small villages in Mexico.
Basurto leads the course “Community-Based Marine Conservation in the Gulf of California,” in which he takes students to western Mexico every spring to study how fishers and indigenous people work together to practice and implement conservation.
“I came to Duke and have stayed at Duke for its support of creating a better world,” Basurto said. “I truly believe the university is creating global citizens.”
A highlight in Basurto’s career so far is seeing a pre-med student find her calling while taking his course.
“Her interactions with locals in sparsely populated communities made her realize she wanted to practice medicine in rural areas,” he said. “Students are taking skills they develop at Duke and using them to help people everywhere.”
Administrative Coordinator with Duke Surgery Office of Clinical Research
15 Years at Duke
Mindy Guzman has her dream job working for the Department of Surgery but still wants to sharpen her professional skills.
Guzman enrolled in Duke Learning & Organization Development (L&OD) Certificate Program in 2017. She earned the Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant certificates and a Certified Executive Administrative Professional designation.
“I felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I graduated,” Guzman said. “It’s a special feeling to know Duke invested in me.”
The L&OD courses taught Guzman about conflict management, conference planning and new Microsoft Excel skills.
“The professional development opportunities are one of the best benefits we have at Duke,” she said.
Director of Student Services with Duke University School of Nursing
20 Years at Duke
Bebe Mills noticed some concerning symptoms in her son, David, in the months following his birth in 2006.
David’s eyes had a yellow tinge and his abdomen was swollen. Doctors diagnosed him with biliary atresia, a rare liver disease, and performed a liver transplant. Not once did Mills have to consider the cost of the procedure. Her Duke Select medical insurance plan had the Mills family covered.
“Without the medical benefits that Duke offers, David’s surgery and medical care would not have been possible,” Mills said. “We didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket for his surgery.”
Mills kept insurance records of her son’s surgery for 10 years as a reminder of how thankful she was for Duke’s employee benefits. She said the procedure would have cost about $500,000 without health insurance.
David, now 12, takes a daily medication to keep his liver healthy. Mills pays $25 for 90 days of medication.
“There’s peace of mind every time I pick up his prescription or take him to a doctor’s appointment,” Mills said. “I know Duke has David covered.”
Senior IT Analyst with the Duke Heart Center, Center of Excellence
30 Years at Duke
When Charles Trautman began working for the Duke, he didn’t have experience in the medical field.
With a master’s degree in forestry, he anticipated managing databases in that field. But he began working for the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease in 1989, and he’s been there ever since.
“My coworkers and I share this goal of helping patients at Duke,” Trautman said. “I’m lucky to work for a place with such a special mission.”
He and a team of other analysts sort through cardiovascular patient data, like which patients have diabetes, high blood pressure and their level of chest pain. The team provides that data to researchers at Duke and the National Cardiovascular Data Registry, which helps hospitals and private practices improve quality of care.
“We create a repository for a lot of the information generated in Duke’s cardiology division,” Trautman said. “My work is in the background, but it’s a special feeling knowing I’m part of an experienced team helping patients.”
Staff Specialist with Duke Community Service Center
40 Years at Duke
At a lifelong Durham resident, Pat James loves that her role can help the community.
James oversees the paperwork that ensures about 150 Duke students get paid for participating in the America Reads/America Counts program. The program enhances the reading and math skills of children in Durham. She said she introduces herself in person or over email to each Duke student when they begin participating in America Reads/America Counts.
“I want them to know that they are important to me,” James said. “Even if I don’t get much face-to-face time, I want them to know how thankful I am for the work they’re doing in Durham.”
For the past 10 years, James has organized the Long Ball Program, a baseball league for kids in Durham. She said it wouldn’t have happened without Duke’s support. Duke Law School guided her through the paperwork to make Long Ball a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the Duke baseball team provides gently used equipment and access to Jack Coombs Field.
“You see Durham coming together to support the kids,” James said. “I love the generosity of the Duke community.”
Senior Associate Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
55 Years at Duke
Gerald Wilson has seen a lot of change in his 55 years at Duke.
He experienced the merger of Trinity College and the Women’s College in 1972, the popularity of athletics explode in the late 1980s and Durham transform from a tobacco town to a city of medicine and technology. The one constant for Wilson has been his enthusiasm working with students as an adviser.
“This is exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” said Wilson, senior associate dean with Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. “I get to talk and listen to the most interesting people every day.”
Wilson advises upperclassman and first-year students, along with Duke alumni looking to go to law school. He also teaches “American Dreams/American Realities” and “Leadership in American History” in the History Department.
“At the beginning of each semester, I have every student in my courses tell me their names, majors, where they’re from and an interesting fact about themselves,” he said. “I like to know each of my students. I love listening to their stories.”
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with Working@Duke.