Carmen Hernandez Retires
Carmen Hernandez’ last day at Einstein is Tuesday, June 30, 2020, and she’ll be missed by humans and animals alike. An animal caretaker lead in our Institute for Animal Studies (IAS), Carmen heads a team of five co-workers who clean cages, feed their occupants, and monitor the animals’ health. She will be retiring after more than 20 years of service within the IAS and over 25 working at the College of Medicine.
“Carmen has been an outstanding associate at Einstein and a true inspiration for all of us,” said Carmine Bianco, assistant director of operations for the IAS, recalling both her rise within the institute and leadership capabilities.
Carmen came to Einstein in 1994 as a security guard. She later applied for a position in the IAS and, in 1999, became a junior caretaker—a perfect fit since she grew up with roosters, chickens, turtles, rabbits, dogs, and cats. (Her father drew a line at the cow.)
Over the years, she was promoted several times and she has cared for many kinds of laboratory animals, from mice and rats, to reptiles and fish, and, more recently, larger mammals and owls. Among the researchers for whose animals she has provided care are Dr. José Peña and Dr. Adam Kohn, professors in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, whose studies focus on learning about brain function and visual processing, respectively.
Carmen has loved working with the animals. “They get to know you, especially the rats—they come to the front of the cage when they see you,” she said. “Owls are less demonstrative,” she observed, “but when they know you, they don’t get nervous. They just watch you work.”
“Carmen interacted with every one of our birds closely, feeding them and cleaning their cages daily,” said Dr. Peña. “She knew the temperament of each owl enough to rapidly detect when something had changed and to suggest compatible pairs.”
“Carmen has been exceptionally careful and professional in taking care of our animals,” said Dr. Kohn. “She knew and understood each individual animal and its needs. She was equally good with people: She kept us informed of upcoming disruptions, like construction, and was amazingly easy to work with.”
Carmen returns the good feelings. Einstein researchers “took me in as one of the family. If I asked them about their studies, they would explain. I learned a lot!” All in all, she said, “To be successful and enjoy your day-to-day work, you must love what you do.”
Once retired, Carmen will spend more time with her own animals—cats and dogs— and work on her house, and relax, she said.
In learning of her departure, Dr. Peña exclaimed, “Carmen, we'll miss you so much! By ‘we’ I mean every lab member, including me, and every owl in the colony.”
Dr. Kohn agreed, noting, “It’s hard to overstate how lucky we’ve been having Carmen at Einstein all these years.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carmen’s colleagues must forgo the usual retirement party they had planned to hold so everyone could wish her well. Instead, this special Around Campus—Bidding Adieu During the COVID-19 Pandemic—shares how any member of the Einstein community wanting to send their well wishes to Carmen can do so. Simply drop off your note or card for Carmen, or send it through interoffice mail to: Van Etten 460. Please make sure to send your message by no later than Friday, July 10. IAS will send a package of the cards and notes to Carmen at her home.
Posted on: Monday, June 29, 2020