For the media

45-year employee now an 85-year-old volunteer

By The Health News Team | June 21, 2023
Maria “Maja” Ostrowski of San Diego at Sharp Rees-Stealy

Maria “Maja” Ostrowski worked in Sharp Rees-Stealy’s medical records department for 45 years and now volunteers as a greeter.

Maria "Maja" Ostrowski, age 85, is a familiar face at Sharp Rees-Stealy Downtown. Three days a week, she volunteers there as a greeter — warmly welcoming patients, visitors and employees who come through the door.

Maja (pronounced MA-ya) is no rookie. Her career at Sharp Rees-Stealy, formerly known as the Rees-Stealy Clinic, began five decades ago.

Born and raised in Poland, Maja came to the U.S. at the age of 26 to visit her aunt and uncle in Los Angeles and learn a little English. She got a job as a housekeeper for a large household and sent a portion of her earnings to her family in Poland.

However, her visit turned into permanent residence. While visiting San Diego, she met her future husband and the two married in 1964.

Finding a home in the U.S. — and at Sharp

Maja’s San Diego neighbor, Margaret Johns, worked in the Patient Accounts Department at the Rees-Stealy Clinic on Fourth Avenue. When Maja expressed interest in finding a job, Margaret encouraged her to apply for a position at the clinic.

“I was hired in 1967 to work in the Medical Records Department,” Maja says. “I remember being so excited but also scared to death. My English wasn’t very good, but I was determined to work hard and do my best.”

Her efforts were definitely appreciated. It quickly became obvious Maja was an expert at locating patient records and a genius when it came to figuring out where a record might be misfiled.

“This was long before electronic medical records, so everything was handwritten,” Maja recalls. “We had these pneumatic tubes we would put messages in and ‘whoosh,’ up they would go through the pipes to other departments.”

Her favorite part about her job was the people she met and worked with. She was promoted to supervisor and was beloved by her fellow colleagues. They affectionately called her "mother" or "grandmother," a testament to her caring nature.

A new way to serve San Diegans at Sharp

After 45 years of service, Maja retired in 2012 — but that didn’t keep her away from Sharp. When construction of the new Sharp Rees-Stealy Downtown Medical Center was completed that same year, Maja offered to volunteer to provide tours and assist patients in navigating the building. She continues her service as a volunteer to this day.

Maja’s unwavering dedication has solidified her as an enduring presence within the clinic. She’s also a bit of a local celebrity, and often gets recognized by patients while on the bus or out grocery shopping.

“The reason I volunteer is the people," Maja says. "My husband and I never had children, and after he passed away, I missed connecting with others. I enjoy helping out and it keeps me busy.”

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