Bond of brothers



Delks John and James Riley Methodist 01 1207 md CRAFT

James and John Delks feel privileged to work in healthcare – James as the new EVS manager at Riley, and John as facilities manager at Methodist.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

When they are not backpacking through national parks or climbing mountains, the Delks brothers are tackling the challenges of working in healthcare amid a pandemic.

Delks brothers hiking

But the rewards are many for John and James Delks, who have made healthcare a family business.

John, facilities manager at IU Health Methodist Hospital, was thrilled recently when his younger brother, James, returned to Indianapolis after 13 years in Alaska to take on the role of EVS manager at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

For James, returning to the Lower 48 and accepting a job at the pre-eminent children’s hospital in Indiana was a dream come true.

It was a return to his roots. A return to family. And a return to winters that don’t feature 20 hours of darkness every day.

“I’m happy to be back with family and friends,” said James, who got his start as an environmental services worker at Methodist as a young man before going on to start his own cleaning companies, then eventually heading to Alaska and moving up into EVS leadership roles at two hospitals near Anchorage. “I’ve been gone such a long time.”

It was a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska nearly 20 years ago with John and older brother Harry when James got the bug to pull up stakes and move north.

The brothers love to seek out adventure, backpacking together and testing their skills as outdoorsmen.

They’ve seen their share of moose and bears, but thankfully not up close and personal, James said.

Delks brothers in the Smoky Mountain National Park

“We like being outdoors and in nature,” he said, adding that the brothers started out hiking in the Hoosier National Forest when they were younger and like to take regular trips to Smoky Mountain National Park. “It’s a cool bonding experience.”

It was older brother Harry who got John and James interested in healthcare careers. All of them worked at one time or another at Methodist, though Harry moved on to facilities management for Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

John first joined Methodist in 1978 and worked there until 2005, when he left to work in other healthcare-related outlets. He returned a few years ago as facilities manager and was thrilled to see some of the same faces he remembers before leaving.

“It’s really awesome for me to come back,” he said, especially now with the construction of the new hospital Downtown. “The Academic Health Center of the future is exciting.”

John met his wife, Margaret, at work. She is a nurse at IU Health North, and the couple have two daughters and six grandchildren. James, whose wife works in sterile processing at IU North, also has two daughters, as well as two stepchildren. He added grandpa to his list of titles with the birth of his first grandchild. Grandfather and grandson haven’t met yet because the 1-year-old lives with his parents in Australia.

Together, the brothers believe they are serving a higher purpose by working in healthcare.

“I was drawn to healthcare because of all the good we can do,” John said.

James agrees, saying his goal at Riley is to continue to attract top-notch people to join his crew of 160-some EVS team members.

Riley Children's Healthcare employees converse

“You have to treat people with extra respect in healthcare,” he said. “They need to feel how valuable they are to the hospital. We’re taking care of sick people, and we want our folks to feel good about what they’re doing, so in turn, they can make patients and families feel better.”

He learned a lot about caring for people at a Catholic hospital he worked for in Alaska.

“It was an important part of the culture,” he said. “And that’s true at Riley as well. I feel like I’m back home now. I am back home. The whole philosophy here is awesome.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,