Have you ever had that feeling when you meet someone new, when you just feel naturally at ease and comfortable? Tammy Hannah gives you that feeling. Her composed and cheery demeanor is immediately easy to see as soon as she talks about her career and family. In fact, her natural compassion is only outweighed by her dedication and intelligence, which have made all the difference in her role as executive director for the Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center (Origami).
Hannah join the team at Origami in May 2000, when she completed her final clinical rotation as an occupational therapy intern from Saginaw Valley State University. And while she intended — as most college students do — to look for new opportunities after school, she found herself positively drawn to Origami.
“I graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with my Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy. I was placed at Origami during field placement, and it was nothing I had imagined. I was nervous because you don’t learn a lot about this kind of rehab and it was intimidating,” said Hannah. “I didn’t think I would be staying past my rotation … They were looking to hire a full-time occupational therapist, and two weeks into my rotation I was offered the job, and I still enjoy it every day.”
That position was a perfect fit for Hannah, but she also got the opportunity to stretch her skills in creating custom protocols and truly helping to build Origami’s systems from the ground up.
“I have always been a family-oriented person and finding ways to invite families and loved ones to be an active part of the rehabilitation process made it [Origami] feel like home,” Hannah said. “I knew I could help people heal here, and I never looked elsewhere. I just knew this is the place I wanted to be and I wanted to help it grow.”
Origami became more than a home away from home or a foundational part of Hannah’s career; it’s where she met her husband Eric. The pair conquered challenges and forged new paths as they served as co-executive directors for several years. And while Eric moved on to pursue separate passions, Hannah found that Origami was still exactly where she wanted to be.
The creativity to find unique solutions to hurdles proves invaluable at Origami, as Hannah and her team work alongside clients. They work diligently to provide the best care available and stay on the edge of new practices. Her brother Jeff has cerebral palsy, so Hannah hopes her own experiences enable her to better serve people like him.
“The thing is, nobody wants to use our services, but we are able to help clients and their families work to achieve their goals. All our clients are different, so we work to find out what their goals are and what makes them tick. We work with our clients on being aware and realistic, but we never rule things out,” said Hannah.
While the Origami team focuses on the success of each client, Hannah also works to take care of her team. It’s undeniable that Hannah is a natural leader, and she is committed to supporting her team just as much as they support those they serve. She credits her zealousness to her dad, who showed her just how much was possible when you truly love what you do.
“I think I have a little bit of my dad in me. He loves his job and when people ask him why he isn’t retired he just tells them he ‘loves what he does,’ so why should he retire? I am passionate about what I do, and it honestly feels more like a hobby,” Hannah said.
As a mother of two, her passion pours into her life at home, and she hopes to share the same lesson her dad passed on to her with her daughters Avery, 8, and Callie, 6.
“I give a lot of speeches and I always practice them until I have them mostly memorized. Sometimes I’ll practice my speech in the car while [my daughters] are in the back seat and they love it. They’ll even give me feedback,” Hannah said. “My daughter Avery had to give a speech for student council and when she was done writing it she told me, ‘I am going to memorize this.’ It was then that it hit me that they are soaking it all up, and I work to be a mindful role model because I know they are paying attention.”
Hannah loves to share her career with her daughters. She thrives when she focuses on what’s most important, by allowing the trivial things to fall to the wayside.
Identifying what’s most important in her life has allowed Hannah to follow her gut and know that as long has she keeps her focus, she can accomplish what she puts her mind too.
“I have always been a natural integrator. I like to do multiple things at once, but once I had children I had to figure out a way to identify what was most important,” Hannah said. “I like to visualize that I am juggling and some of the balls are made of rubber, and if they fall they will bounce back up — but some of the balls are made of glass, and those are the ones I am careful to never drop.”
For Hannah, what feels right is caring for her family, her team and her patients, and always finding time to give back.
“I think my mindset as a leader can be summed up by a quote by the actor Denzel Washington, ‘At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.’ [And] that is so true,” Hannah said. “The reward you see from your hard work is not about a title or years of experience … It’s about what you have given back.”