Welcome to Defender Profiles. Here you’ll learn about one of our amazing defenders of childhood – everything from what they do for CHOC to what they do for fun – and gain insight into a different department in our health system.
Maribel Hernandez is an accounts payable finance clerk whose seven years at CHOC have inspired her in more ways than one. As a member of CHOC Fit, she began running to help her mental health and has since become an avid runner. She now runs several marathons per year, and recently ran the Chicago Marathon with Choco strapped to her backpack.
How long have you worked at CHOC?
I just celebrated my seventh CHOC-iversary on July 13 of this year!
Why did you decide to go into finance?
Finance challenges me and allows me to keep busy; I really enjoy being a part of it. Before CHOC, I worked for family businesses and performed various job duties, but I’ve always found finance to be the most interesting.
Can you describe your current role?
I work in accounts payable, and we handle all the payments for the hospital, services and orders that are placed. This includes utility bills and everything little thing the hospital needs to run – even permits and pre-approved materials for some of the big construction projects that are coming up. It’s very hands-on when it comes to my everyday job duties, and I never know what I’ll run into the next day – and that’s exciting for me!
What do you love about your current role?
I love that this role keeps me busy and challenges me. It sounds as simple as paying an invoice, but it’s so much more involved than that. We are like detectives; we must track down items to confirm the hospital received them, check with everyone involved to ensure they were happy with the service and identify any damage or problems that may have occurred. Our job is to make sure there are no hiccups anywhere along the way.
How has your role changed due to the pandemic?
At the start of the pandemic the finance team went 100% remote. This has been the biggest change I’ve felt in our department. Every now and then, we come into the hospital to grab paper invoices – it’s nice to have that change of scenery.
What do you love about working at CHOC?
When you work here, you feel like you’re a part of something big. We are serving the community and serving families during their most difficult times. When I say I work for CHOC, I feel like others automatically understand what that means and how important our work here is. It gives me a lot of pride.
How has CHOC changed and progressed in your time here?
CHOC has been quick to adopt a lot of changes that benefit BDEI and mental health. I’ve seen so much progression here over the years in terms of supporting different cultures and becoming a place of acceptance, belonging and education. And the hospital has seen a huge spike in mental health challenges – particularly since the start of the pandemic – and done so much to address it. CHOC has really embraced becoming a mental health resource within our community.
Do you have any favorite moments or stories about working at CHOC that you can share?
My first Halloween at CHOC is one of my fondest memories. I’ve never been a Halloween person – it’s always been my least favorite holiday. But the first time I experienced Halloween at CHOC completely changed me. Seeing the patients and families trick-or-treat and seeing how much fun everyone involved had – it was so special, and I’ll never forget it.
What do you feel makes someone a great defender of childhood?
When my daughter was 8 or 9 years old, she needed knee surgery. She has a very anxious personality and always likes to know what the plan is – she wants to know steps one through 10 before you even begin step one. I had only been at CHOC a few months, but this experience changed us from associate family to patient family, and I was blown away at how incredible the nurses were. They explained every single step to my daughter, from changing her into her gown and bringing her a Choco bear to drawing her blood. They made the entire process so easy for her, and I saw how every one of them went above and beyond to make her comfortable. That, to me, is what a great defender of childhood does.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I’m a proud soccer mom! I have five daughters, ranging in age from 24 to 12, and they all have played soccer. We have been on the soccer fields every weekend for years – I even have a shirt that says “We can’t, we have soccer.” Soccer has given my family many opportunities to travel to other cities and states for competitions, as well.
I also have two grandkids, ages 3 and 1, and just adopted a puppy – a Maltipoo named Russell.
Being a part of CHOC also motivated me to focus on my own health. I joined CHOC Fit and started running – slowly at first, and for only five minutes at a time. It completely changed my mental state, and I’m now an avid runner. Over the last four years, I have run multiple marathons – about five per year. This year, I was accepted to the Chicago and New York City marathons. My family is going to fly out to New York in November to cheer me on.
I just completed the Chicago marathon in October. It was an amazing run, but of course I say that after every marathon! I took Choco with me and received so many compliments as he ran his first marathon. Several runners and spectators asked what he was for! Around mile 18, I came across a little girl who gifted me a small purple flower. When she and her family saw Choco on my back, the little girl yelled to me that she had a very small bear with her, too. I will treasure that moment for as long as I can remember.