Submitted by Jamie Funk, Therapy Recruiting Resource
Meet Avenlea Gamble (pictured Left), a second-generation Ensignista who is the Director of Rehabilitation at Northbrook Healthcare Center in Willits, California. Avenlea has been coming to Northbrook since she was three days old, which may sound strange unless you know that her mom, Shawndee Gamble (pictured Right), is the facility administrator there.
This story is about Avenlea, but it is woven tightly with the story of her mother. Shawndee began working at both our Ukiah and Willits locations when she was 17 years old, first as a CNA, then in medical records, and then as an activities director. Avenlea would help out with bingo and one-on-one activities with the residents and developed a lasting love for the long-term care setting. Shawndee later entered the AIT program and has been the facility administrator at Northbrook for 13 years.
Avenlea began her healthcare career at 16 when she became a care partner for Northbrook residents under the Department of Social Services. She also served as a dietary aide, helped with HR, and basically filled in on any odd job that was needed. She loved helping her small, tight-knit community. Willits has a population of approximately 5,000, so Avenlea cared for many of her friend’s parents and grandparents over the years.
Avenlea loved growing up in a small town, and her graduating high school class had only 18 students! She knew from early on that she wanted a career in therapy and wanted to return to Willits to help alleviate the ongoing shortage of qualified medical professionals there. She ultimately chose speech therapy because it allowed her to support communication and give people a voice.
The University of Pacific is where Avenlea obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Speech Language Pathology, and also where she met her now husband, Jan. An interesting fact is that UOP had the same number of students as the entire town of Willits. Despite the crowd, Avenlea loved her experience there and had great clinical exposure with patients beginning in her junior year.
Jan took Avenlea’s last name when they married since the family history meant so much to her (and she is the namesake for her family). Jan is an opera singer as well as an audiologist and works in a clinic in Santa Rosa. He has a passion for music but also for science, so audiology was a perfect combination of the two. You can find his music and online choir on YouTube. Avenlea says their home is filled with a variety of instruments and full of music most of the time. Her two cats, Belle and Jasper, are happy residents and can be found enjoying a view of the beautiful foothills through a sunny picture window in the Gambles’ house.
After graduating with her Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology, Avenlea worked in an acute care hospital setting in Stockton to complete her clinical fellowship year and earn her CCCs. It wasn’t long before a speech therapist position became available back home and she convinced Jan to join her in moving back.