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Timikia “Candy” Craig bathes patients, helps them get around and empties bed pans as part of her job.

Her vocation? That’s another story.

Craig works the rooms of 6 West at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. As a hospital clinical assistant – a certified nurse’s aide – she also dispenses smiles, a willing ear and empathy that comes with handling struggles of her own.

“I feel it’s my job, as a human being, to try to make a difference in somebody’s life, to help make them feel better,” said Craig, who aims to one day be a registered nurse.

She is going to school and working, both full time, as she chases that goal.

Craig, 43, a Bennett High School graduate, lives on the East Side and is the single mother of a 21-year-old son, Jayson Rodgers. She has worked since she was 16, mostly in collections before landing her first nursing-related position about a decade ago at Erie County Medical Center. She came to Roswell six years ago.

A student at Niagara County Community College, she recently was awarded the $1,000 Eva M. Noles Scholarship, named in honor of Buffalo’s first African-American nurse who, like Craig, worked at ECMC and Roswell. (Read more about Noles, 94, of Amherst, at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh.)

“This scholarship is to honor Ms. Noles but also recognize people who have qualities like her as far as leadership, as far as looking to move forward, increase their education against the odds, and represent the Institute in a positive light,” said David Scott, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Roswell.

A committee chose Craig among 15 applicants, all of whom are minorities and/or economically disadvantaged health care workers looking to advance their careers in the field.

“Candy really stuck out this year for two reasons,” Scott said. “She got the scholarship application to me in April and we actually don’t do the scholarship until November. She also put a lot of thought into where she wanted to go and she tied it to her past, and how far she’s come already, and looking forward to the future.”

Rich or poor, black or white, yellow or brown, it doesn’t matter where you come from if you want to work at Roswell. There’s a different standard.

“You have to have compassion in order to survive here and in order to do well,” Scott said, “because we’re faced with some of the most difficult challenges that people can face.”

Craig lavished praise on others for the successes she’s had. At the top of the list: her mother, Rita Swain, 58 – a home health aide who lives downstairs from Craig and her son in a house not far from ECMC – as well as fellow staff on 6 West whom she described as her “work family.”

How did you become a nurse’s aide?

We had to care for an aunt. She was 86 years old, and I was helping my mom assist with her. I saw it was wearing on my mom, so I helped. My aunt was feisty. She was a firecracker. She wanted her food hot. She wanted certain foods. She wanted to watch “The Price is Right” and nothing else. I learned a lot taking care of her.

The experience led you to ECMC?

At the time, I worked on the phone helping people with credit cards and payment arrangements. I just decided it was time to try something different. I was terrified, but I tried it. I needed to be certified. I got my certification from the Adult Learning Center on Virginia Street to become a CNA. … We worked at a nursing home on Elmwood where you had to crank the bed to make it move up and down. It’s a lot better now. We get to push buttons.

One of the reasons you got this scholarship is because of the way you treat patients. Do you have a philosophy when it comes to that?

It’s my job to make them feel better, and I like doing that, first with a smile. That melts everybody. Let them know that you understand what they’re going through. Sometimes, they just need you to hold their hand and talk to them. I get pleasure helping out in that way.

You say you’re missing a former patient, a college professor who recently died.

She was everything to me. I was struggling with chemistry. I wanted to give up. She encouraged me to press on. … I get to meet fantastic people like her. It’s one of the pleasures of working at Roswell. She was a very beautiful lady.

Are there things you do to psych yourself up before you come into work every day?

I just pray. I know that day is going to come, like today, another wild day on 6 West. Pray, and just have understanding. I’m here for the patient, no matter what goes on in my life or what goes on on the floor. It’s all about the patient.

Have you ever had to be hospitalized?

I had a miscarriage in 2009 and I went to Women & Children’s Hospital, and they were magnificent. Everyone, from the transport to the admissions person, everybody was very, very nice and treated me very, very well.

What happened when they found out they were taking care of a fellow health care worker?

I didn’t reveal that side of me. … I don’t expect extra treatment.

What would you say to a young woman in your shoes who’s thinking about a career in nursing?

Always believe in yourself, have a great support system and don’t give up. No matter how hard it gets, how stressful it gets – and it’s going to – don’t give up on yourself and your dream.

email: refresh@buffnews.com