North Charleroi retiree spent almost 4 decades in medical profession
Gwendolon Houchins found her nearly four decades in the medical field “fulfilling.”
Her compassion for people was a perfect fit for the profession.
“I'm a people person and that was needed in the profession,” said the North Charleroi resident. “I have compassion for people who are sick.
It was the compassion that ultimately caused her to retire, in order to provide one-on-one care for an ill family member.
Growing up in Charleroi, she moved to Philadelphia after graduating from Charleroi High School in 1959 to pursue better job opportunities.
She worked in retail before moving back to the Pittsburgh area in 1967, when she accepted a job at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh, working as a receptionist.
Within two years, she became office manager in the diagnostic radiology department, where she managed all nontechnical staff, including medical residents.
“We had to teach them to dictate and be concise with their dictation,” Houchins said.
Houchins spent 21 years at St. Francis Hospital before retiring in 1988.
She then accepted a position in medical billing for Transcomp Medical Billing in Pittsburgh.
Houchins helped restructure the company's billing system. She retired from the firm in 2006 to take care of her cousin, Josephine Taylor, who was in failing health.
“It was a choice of either a nursing home or bring her home to care for her,” Houchins said.
For two years, Houchins cared for her cousin at her North Charleroi home before she passed away in 2008.
Houchins still resides there.
“My greatest joy was working with the nuns (at St. Francis Hosppital,)” Houchins said. “They bent over backwards to assist me.
Houchins said her aunt, Gwendolyn Dececilo – Taylor's mother – was the second African-American woman to graduate from California State Teachers College. She taught in a segregated school in Baltimore during the 1950s.
Houchins also was a bit of a trailblazer in her profession. She was the first African-American woman hired as a manager at St. Francis Hospital.
Houchins said she did face racism on the job from patients.
She recalled one time when a patient was brought in with kidney stones. He was violently ill but ,when she approached, he told her to stay away.
Undaunted, she held him and cared for him, even cleaning him up after he heaved on himself and her.
After recovering, he later found her in the hospital and apologized for his earlier attitude.
“He said, ‘I don't know what I would have done without you,'” Houchins recalled.
Houchins said the hospital employees were very close.
“I considered the hospital as family,” Houchins said. “If anyone had a hardship, we took care of them. If you got a call at 2 a.m. that an employee had a house fire, you'd get blankets and food for them immediately.
“We came to the rescue and considered everyone, even down to housekeeping and the kitchen help, as family,” Houchins said.
Houchins is an active member of the Wayman Quinn A.M.E. Church in Monessen.
She also is involved in the Girls with a New Vision, a mentoring program for girls ages 11 to 15 who are given guidance on social norms and learn about various professions from guest speakers.
“We try to get people from the community to speak on their professions,” Houchins said.
Her goal is keeping active, to an extent. Houchins said she used to love to roller skate, but two back surgeries caused her to hang up her skates.
“I'm 73,” Houchins said. “I could have been working still if not for my back.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 7 Up distributed from two Charleroi sites
- 2 men nabbed in Donora drug sting
- N. Belle Vernon man jailed after police station visit
- In-house busing aids Belle Vernon Area
- House fire claims life of Monongahela man
- Man dies in Monongahela fire
- Monessen residents angry about blight
- Watch out for computer scams, identifty theft
- Summer youth program in Donora bridges gap between young, old