National Guard Recognizes UAMS Supervisor as ‘Patriotic Employer’

By Ben Boulden

Powell is a master clinical applications analyst in UAMS Information Technology and supervises Chris Coffman, an intermediate clinical applications analyst. Coffman also serves as a staff sergeant in the Arkansas Air National Guard, 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Powell's Patriotic Employer Award

Powell’s Patriotic Employer Award

Coffman said the award was received in January 2021, but disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the safety measures that came with it precluded any formal presentation for more than a year.

“It’s been sitting in my house in its container while I’ve been trying to figure out how best to get this done,” Coffman said. He said several weeks ago, he conferred with Amy Durham, Clinical Information Systems Manager, and it started to come together.

Col. Dean Martin, commander of the 189th Airlift Wing, presented Powell with the award after some brief remarks praising both Powell and Coffman.

“Why we do this is to recognize the sacrifices you make for our folks, and I can tell you right now that he has been done a lot,” Martin said to an on-campus gathering of about 20 National Guard and UAMS personnel. “We could not do what we do without you. We need you for access to these men and women to do their jobs supporting the state.”

The Patriotic Employer Award is part of the Patriot Award series of awards from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program in the U.S. Department of Defense. Coffman nominated Powell for the honor. The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence if needed.

Patriot Awards are awarded to individual supervisors, not to an entire staff or organization as a whole.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that gratitude goes both ways,” UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, said in response to Martin. “We had the Guard here helping us with our COVID testing and vaccinations. We would have been deeply challenged without that. Thousands of UAMS team members appreciate what you all do every single day.”

Following on a 19-year career in local law enforcement, Powell has worked at UAMS for eight years. Coffman has been at the university for three years and enlisted with the Arkansas National Guard for 20 years.

Col. Dean Martin, far left, gestures toward Mavin Powell, far right, as he thanks him for his support for Chris Coffman.

Col. Dean Martin, far left, gestures toward Mavin Powell, far right, as he thanks him for his support for Chris Coffman.

“I was just doing what I ought to do, right? I can remember though when interviewing Chris to come to work for us, I noted that he had a military career,” Powell said. “Discipline stuck out in my mind. I thought, ‘That’s a guy I want on my team.’ Chris has performed very well for me. He has played a key role in whatever we have going on and is a valued team member. This award is totally unexpected, but I love it.”

Coffman said he had only worked at UAMS a short time when he had to leave in late 2020 for training with the National Guard. He was required to quarantine for two weeks before he took part in a four-week course.

Powell and the IT team allowed Coffman to take his computer to the on-base hotel where he was sequestered and to work from there for the two-week period, allowing him to minimize his use of leave time.

“With the pandemic, it has been about doing what you have to do to survive or get by,” Powell said. “We had all been sent home for work, so it wasn’t a big stretch to understand he could still work for us remotely.”

Coffman said when he had asked a previous employer about transitioning from the Army National Guard to the Air National Guard, the response he got was far from supportive. His UAMS experience was entirely different.

“They have continued to support my additional training and service,” Coffman said. “When I returned, they helped greatly with re-entry and bringing me back up to date on what had happened in my absence. I couldn’t have asked for more.”