Andrew R. Best Jr., MPA, MSS, LSW
Behavioral Health Clinical Consultant
Network Improvement & Accountability Collaborative
Earning my second masters degree afforded me not only the opportunity for professional growth but also for personal growth. Growing in both of these areas provided clarity as to where I see myself in the future. Embracing DBHIDS’ mission of promoting recovery, resilience, and self-determination was the foundation of my success.
Tonya T. Harris, MS, MPA
Community-Based Services Development Unit Specialist
Planning and Innovation Division
I am a recent graduate from Walden University (2011-2015) with a master’s degree in public administration with a double concentration in policy analysis and public management and leadership. I also received a certificate in nonprofit management, which I acquired during my last year at WU. I did this with the support and guidance of the schools disability services. The opportunity to go back to school and complete my second master’s degree was something that I was told I would never successfully complete!
In the summer of 2000, I had a ruptured brain aneurysm. At the time, I was one year away from my first Master’s degree in Organizational management & Leadership and at the ripe old age of 37. I am a divorced mother with two sons. I was at home when I fell out and I woke up 23 days later here in Philadelphia at Jefferson Hospital. Their neurological team and Dr. Rossenwasser saved my life. The aneurysm was the size of a nickel on the “left communication artery,” which controls your thinking, processing, logic and reasoning, spelling, etc. Geriatric patients experience cognitive aneurysms such as this, so when I woke up I was the only African-American female in that ICU unit with older males. I was afraid and could not remember anything except my name.
For the first three years, I was in cognitive therapy and had to learn everything over again starting with two-letter words, to learning how to shop at the market again, and learning to get my balance (walking), all while still being heavily medicated, because of the trauma I was still experiencing. It has been a very long road back and I have on most days given up. The doctors told me because of the extent of my injuries and their accompanying severity, that I would never be able to go back to my profession and/or field of study and that I could be employ as a crossing guard or lunchroom attendant, etc.
I was listening to the professionals talk about their projected limitations on my life and whether I should accept them However, I was thinking the entire time listening to them and being confused that I did not know what/who they were taking about because I was going to go back to work and school.
I did not get permission to drive again until 2004. With the help of vocational employment services, I had gotten a few jobs, in which they all ended up with me fired. It wasn’t until 2004 that someone took a chance hiring someone with disabilities, here in Philadelphia at a treatment program. I told the employer the truth about the gaps on my resume and she gave me a shot. I applied to a job at PHMCC in November 2004 and was contacted right away. I started that job in January 2005 and have applied myself to goal of recovery, resilience, and self-determination here at DBHIDS and to the dedication I see on a daily bases working here, from everyone!
Eventually, I did go back to get and complete in the fall of 2005 with the help of the amazing staff and professors at Springfield College and the help of disability services. Surviving this experience when so many others have passed away, reminds me of the gift I’ve been given and not to give up on life, work hard and let someone help you, can take you very far in life. Every day, is a success even though I still have many challenges, but I am better human being because of them. This experience had prepared me for the goals I have yet to accomplish, as my future is still bright, and I feel I am on purpose.