Think Beyond the Label’s Smart Hire: Tammy Wilber

Posted January 17, 2012

One of the things Tammy Wilber says she enjoys about her job at UnitedHealthcare is that the people she calls have no idea she has a disability.

“They just know me as Tammy – ‘the helpful person on the phone’, rather than focusing on my disability,” she said. “It has been refreshing for me to see what that is like.”

Wilber said she loves her job as a full-time Clinical Administrative Coordinator at UnitedHealthcare in Las Vegas, where she communicates with nursing staffs and patients to fulfill expedited claims for timely medical procedures.

In this critical role, Wilber said she isn’t limited by her disability, which resulted from a car accident 17 years ago that left her permanently paralyzed from the mid-chest down.

Tammy Wilbur

“My disability has certainly shaped me, but it doesn’t define me,” said Wilber. “Everyone at UnitedHealthcare has treated me as a person first no matter what; my disability always comes second.”

Since joining UnitedHealthcare in April, Tammy has already been recognized by management, winning awards for her focus and determination.

These qualities carry over into her personal life, where she tirelessly volunteers within the disabled community to help others overcome their challenges.

In fact, she is currently volunteering as the new State Coordinator for Ms. Wheelchair America to organize the 1st Annual Ms. Wheelchair Nevada Pageant in 2012. She has been active in the organization since she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Washington in 2006. The event is so much more than a pageant, she adds. It is an opportunity to showcase and honor the personal achievements of women with disabilities, she said.

Although her full-time job at UnitedHealthcare and volunteer duties for Ms. Wheelchair America are more than enough to keep her busy, she is also in the midst of planning one of the most important events of her life: her wedding. Wilber is marrying Cameron Stay, whom she met at the Abilities Expo, a trade show featuring vendors who work with individuals with physical disabilities.

“At the time, I was modeling in a fashion show and thought I looked very bridal because I was wearing a white outfit and had flowers in my hair,” she said. “I guess Cameron thought so too, because when he saw me on stage, he said, ‘I want that one!’”

Both Wilber and Stay can identify with each other’s challenges and accomplishments. A motorcycle accident left Cameron in a coma for three weeks. During that time, he had suffered multiple strokes and is now paralyzed from the chest down.

After meeting at the conference, their friendship blossomed into a romance, followed by their recent engagement – with Stay lowering himself to one knee and asking Tammy to marry him on a park bench in Hermosa Beach!

Wilber couldn’t be more excited about her wedding, and if it sounds like a dream come true – it is. In addition to marrying the love of her life, she was granted her “wish” from Wish Upon A Wedding, a non-profit organization, which donates wedding services to couples facing terminal illness or serious life-altering circumstances.

Wilber said she hopes that others with disabilities can find inspiration in how she has overcome her challenges to lead a full and independent life.

“I want to send the message that you should never sell yourself short,” she said. “Seek out resources that are available to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Wilber has taken advantage of several state agency programs that provide career training and college tuition assistance to people with disabilities. Also, when she needs something at work, she asks for it as well – whether it’s a push-button automatic door, or a parking space close to the entrance. And United Healthcare has been happy to accommodate all of her requests, she said.

“My biggest piece of advice is to work with your human resources department,” she said. “UnitedHealthcare’s HR team has been there for me since day one.”

About UnitedHealthcare: UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealthGroup (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.