This occasional series features Eastern Mennonite University staff members. Vanessa Derrow serves EMU as the health information management coordinator in Health Services.
What was your path to working at EMU?
I was employed at JMU for about 10 years in a few different roles, as the first receptionist in health services around 1988, an administrative assistant in the counseling center for a few years, and the office manager at the Child Development Clinic and Human Development Center for a few years.
When our oldest son started middle school, I transitioned to Broadway High School, where I was the registrar in the counseling office. I enjoyed working with students, and this worked well for our family at the time – the boys could ride the bus to my office and participate in after-school activities, and I could attend their events.
Shortly before Thanksgiving break around 2008, I saw the advertisement for the wellness suite office coordinator position. I was so excited because it was for health services, counseling services and campus ministries – and I had experience in the college health and counseling settings. After two interviews, I started at EMU that January 1.
My position at EMU has evolved a lot over the last 10 years. As the health information management coordinator in Health Services, I process all of the required health forms and immunizations for first-year and graduate and undergraduate transfer students; assist with insurance billing processes; collect and post co-pays and payments; assist with planning for events (i.e. the employee benefits fair, open house, SpringFest, etc.); and do all of the appointment scheduling. In all that, I provide compassionate support to patients.
Educational and professional highlights:
I graduated from Turner Ashby High School in 1985, and prior to working at EMU, attended many trainings and seminars focused around my work in education, health services and counseling, with topics ranging from working with difficult people, customer service and supervisory skills to recognizing gang signs and education about illegal drugs.
What I love about EMU:
I believe that as a smaller school, EMU offers a lot of opportunities for students. I’ve been enriched by many relationships with co-workers and students. There are a lot of good folks around, and I encourage everyone to get to know some new employees and students!
My high school sweetheart Steve and I have been married almost 32 years! He is the shop foreman at Excel Truck in Weyers Cave and has been in the field over 30 years. We have three grown sons: Wesley graduated from JMU and works in HR at a farm-to-table restaurant in Short Pump, Virginia; Mitchell graduated from EMU and works as a store manager of the Lowe’s in Lexington; and Benjamin is a senior at Broadway High School, and is studying architecture and interior design at Massanutten Technical Center.
Steve and I have taught our guys about hard work, doing their best, going the extra mile and being kind. Like most people, our family has faced difficult times, and I tell them that struggles build strong families. We provided a private, Christian education for all three of them from elementary to middle school.
Life outside of work:
Our family has enjoyed camping at Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke for almost 25 years! Open season is April through October, and we go there most weekends. Our guys have grown up on the water, enjoying water sports, fishing and pleasure boating. Many dear friendships have developed through the years and I can’t begin to guess how many picnics and potlucks we’ve enjoyed and hosted! I have shared with many friends that this “getaway time” has saved our marriage more than once.
I always enjoy any time with family and friends, being near water, or just relaxing on the deck at home. Our family has hosted the EMU gospel choir for meals and has prepared a lot of BBQ chicken and pork for BSU meals in the past.
I attended Sandy Bottom Holiness Church over 20 years; my dear pastor passed away about two years ago.
We also enjoy EMU basketball during the winter. We traveled to Guilford College when the men went to the Elite 8 and to CNU to support the ladies in a playoff game, and took several fun trips with co-workers to Salem to cheer them on for ODAC championships. I love our students and enjoy watching them mature as players and young adults.
And finally: Which of the following about Vanessa is a lie?
- I have been on a mission trip to Mexico.
- I have never hit a deer while driving a vehicle.
- An EMU student lived with us for a summer.