Woman with autism plays crucial role at UT Medical Center

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - ABC's hit series "The Good Doctor" is based on a brilliant young surgeon with autism.The fictional storyline is aimed at shedding skepticism when it comes to recognizing someone's abilities, despite the odds.

Meanwhile, a real-life success story is playing out at UT Medical Center: a young woman with autism who landed a job there. 

Kezia Cox, 29, is a hard worker. She makes sure essential items like gloves, gowns and cleaning supplies are ready to go for nurses and other staff on the busy surgical floor at UT Medical Center.

Similar to the lead character in "The Good Doctor," Cox is on the high end of the autism spectrum.

The show inspires her to keep pushing to reach her potential.

"It's given me a will to fight for what I want," Kezia says. "A will to fight for my independence, you know, and if he can do it, why can't everybody else?"

Kezia got her foot in the door at the hospital through the Project Search program which provides internships for people with disabilities, hoping their experience will lead to full-time jobs down the road. The hospital believes having an inclusive workforce benefits everyone.

Danny Matthews with Project Search says during her internship, Kezia was a very quick learner.

"We had her doing a lot of very sophisticated tasks. She was in med records doing chart prep, she did a lot of computer data entry, but she also really liked getting in there and going really intense jobs, cleaning and stocking materials," Matthews said.

Her work ethic and personality got the attention of Nurse Manager Julie Daniels.

"I asked her if she would be willing to come back and work with us," Daniels said.

Cox is grateful for her job and is already jumping into the role of advocate for others with disabilities, encouraging employers in our area to take a second look, give someone else like her a chance.

"I feel like if you could just look at them, and say 'ok, what do you have, what do you bring to the table? We can work with you," said Cox. "You are a person and you can do this. Maybe not in the same way, but you can do this.'"

If your company is interested in hiring someone who has gained on-the-job experience through Project Search, contact Autism Breakthrough of Knoxville at info@breakthroughknoxville.com or call them at (865) 247-0065.


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