River City Six: Norma Drake
Douglas County Health Center (dchc.douglascounty-ne.gov) has proudly served the Omaha area for over 100 years and continues to be a leader in health care in the community. Norma Drake is the Director of Dietary Services at Douglas County Health Center, and also serves on the executive committee.
Tell us a little about your business.
Our team of health care professionals provides excellent Short Term Post-Acute Rehabilitation and Long Term Care, including Memory Support. We are recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid as a Five Star Rated facility, and proud to be the only facility in Nebraska to hold that rating consistently since the inception of the rating program in 2008.
How did you get started in the business?
I married my high school sweetheart when I was 18 and he had enlisted in the military. He was sent overseas to Italy, and I went over on the Queen Mary to be with him. When we relocated back to the states, my husband enrolled at the University of Iowa. I was hired on as the secretary to the dean of the college and later became her personal administrative assistant. When my husband graduated, we moved to Omaha. We had a daughter and when she was three, I decided it was time to go back to school. I love chemistry and took all the chemistry courses I could take at the time. That led me to a degree in Dietetics and also Education. The Douglas County Health Center hired me right out of college in August of 1977 as a Therapeutic Dietician. It was actually a hospital then! Fast forward 40 years and I am now the director of the department that I am so fond of.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
I would say developing our meal service to where it is today. My greatest challenge was setting up the menus for our patients. When I came on our patients simply received a tray with their food on it, which was a very basic system, but didn’t always serve the needs of everyone well. We put a completely new delivery system in place using food carts, which allows us to cater to each patient, and we continue to make updates to improve it.
What has been your most important achievement professionally? – Designing and implementing food cart service. Now residents are able to make the decision on what they would like to eat!
Tell us a little about your family.
Jim and I were married for 53 years, and I’ve been widowed now for 7 years. We have 2 children, Lisa and Jeffrey, and 3 grandchildren. The 2 oldest granddaughters are married and have added wonderful husbands to our family. My grandson recently graduated from high school and just started college. We also have 4 fantastic great grandchildren!
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
I enjoy anything that involves my family! We are also fortunate to do so much traveling together.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know? – When my husband and I were returning home from Europe on a military vessel we went through a tornado at sea and didn’t think we would make it through the night. The ship was on its side taking 40 degree turns. It was one of the scariest moments of my life and I’m blessed to be here today!
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
You are my Sunshine.
What is your favorite local restaurant?
Cascio’s Steakhouse. My husband and I very much enjoyed dining there and it’s still around today!