Gary Rollins, DDS, didn’t realize he was sick. He felt fine, healthy even. He went in for a routine physical where blood work was performed and something came back suspicious. He was reassured that everything was probably fine, but that he should make an appointment with a specialist just to make sure. After that exam, a biopsy was performed which came back positive — it was cancer.
“I had cancer surgery in 2016. Initially, the surgeon said I would be out a couple of months,” said Dr. Rollins, assistant professor in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry. “Complications in surgery can happen and no one can predict that.” Complications from surgery caused him to take off work for four months.
Fortunately Dr. Rollins, who joined UTHSC in 2012, enrolled in the sick leave bank in 2013 after hearing about a colleague who became ill, but did not have the sick leave bank to fall back on. “I joined as soon as I had enough days to utilize it.”
In order to be eligible for the benefit, full-time or part-time employees must accrue a balance of at least 48 sick-leave hours and contribute a one-time donation of 24 sick-leave hours to the bank. Part-time employee contributions are pro-rated. Once enrolled, employees may receive up to a maximum of a 90-day grant within a calendar year to use from the sick leave bank.
“UTHSC was so gracious and so helpful, especially HR,” Dr. Rollins said. “Helping me stay on the rails so to speak, on what I needed to do. The timing. What I needed to get from my physician and from the college to make sure everything was put in place so when I was off, there were no problems while I was recuperating.”
That was two years ago, and Dr. Rollins is now healthy. He continues to work with third- and fourth-year dentistry students, preparing them to effectively perform treatments so they can be successful dentists when they graduate. He says the students keep him on his toes.
“This is a benefit that you just can’t ignore,” Dr. Rollins said. “This is a wonderful safety net. That is the best phrase I can use. It protects your job and gives you a little bit of income until you are back on your feet. It’s a win-win.”
Open enrollment for the sick leave bank is taking place now through June 30th.
Enrollment forms should be submitted to the Benefits Department of Human Resources at 910 Madison Ave, Suite 764. Membership will be effective July 1. Members do not have to re-enroll for the sick leave bank every year. Once enrolled, membership remains throughout employment with UTHSC.
“Not everyone has this benefit,” Dr. Rollins said. “As a private practitioner, when your off, your off. There is no income coming in and there’s no help, except for what you have saved. I encourage anybody and everybody to enroll.”