Employee Spotlight: Ariel Perez

June 30, 2019

Can you tell me about your current role at the university?

My primary and current role is as a Pharmacy Technician at the Yale Health Pharmacy. I’ve been working as a Pharmacy Technician for about 12 years, however, I’ve been at Yale for about three years now. Additionally, I’m also involved with a variety of committees and affinity groups. At Yale Health, I sit on the Patient-Centered Care committee, where we discuss how to make a patient’s overall experience here, from admission to discharge to communication of medical conditions, easier to understand and plainer for patients. We have a broad plain language and health literacy initiative that allows us to make alterations and customize service to our patients as well. Within the Yale community, just recently I involved myself with the Yale Latino Networking Group; this was strongly suggested to me by Deborah Stanley-McAulay, whom I’ve been collaborating with through my work on the Diversity and Inclusion here at Yale Health as well.

You alluded to your work with diversity and inclusion. Are you on committees with diversity and inclusion?

Yes! Yale Health, recently, initiated an intentional effort to bring awareness to the diverse cultures within our workforce and patient population, as well as making our organization a more inclusive environment.  About two years ago, we launched a diversity and inclusion survey organization wide, and from those responses and answers a committee was formed to help us address those issues of opportunity that resulted direct feedback from our patients and from our members of our staff. We have collaborated with Deborah Stanley-McAulay, from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, extensively; she has been a great part of the work that we’ve been doing. This work has inspired my interest, and I’ve since been searching for ways to get involved and directly make an impact into what we do for our patients and our staff.

I know I’ve seen you at a couple of FLY events. Are you involved with any other affinity groups?

In addition to FLY, I have the opportunity to sit on the steering committee for the Yale Latino Networking Group.  This has been a growth opportunity for me and one that has caused me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable while trying something novel and challenging because you’ll never know what you can do until you actually do try.

And so, you said you’ve been doing this type of work for the past twelve years. Can you share more about those opportunities?

Sure absolutely. I started as a Pharmacy Technician when I was nineteen years old. I worked retail at Rite Aid Pharmacy for the grand majority of that time. Being a Pharmacy Technician in a retail setting is vastly different than here in a clinical setting, and I’ll elaborate on that shortly. After working as a Technician at Rite Aid for about eight years or so, I just began to be aspirational and wanted to take more control of my career. There wasn’t really a position after Pharmacy Tech in Rite Aid’s organizational structure, so I began networking and making contacts within the company that opened opportunities for me to be involved in different initiatives. In a more enhanced clinical role with Rite Aid, I became a liaison for Rite Aid within the local community and was charged with growing our prescription business with small businesses and large corporations. One of the greatest successes we had was a partnership with Medtronic that resulted in flu shot clinics for three years with a net increase in prescription growth of about 2000 for my home store, and the district as a whole. I then made a lateral move from Pharmacy Operations to Front End Management. I was Store Manager and led my own store for close to two and a half years. This was a major change in scenery for me. Going from simply pharmacy technician and filling prescriptions and dealing with patients to now running the entire store operation and slight oversight in the pharmacy, was really challenging and exciting for me. However, I recognized that my vocation was in Healthcare.  An opportunity to return to my passion in healthcare and serve patients and people presented itself here at Yale Health and I started as a per diem here at the health plan pharmacy. Within six months another opportunity arose for me to get involved full-time, and I did not have to think twice about it.

Are you from the area?

I was born and raised in New Haven. I’m a lifelong resident of New Haven. I went to East Rock Middle School and Wilbur Cross High School, both of which are nearby. I did coursework at Quinnipiac towards a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Marketing, and I will soon complete my Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management from Albertus Magnus College. I’m New Haven through and through.

When do you complete your degree?

I will be done with school in March of 2020, and graduating in May 2020 with a Bachelor’s in Healthcare Management.

Is there anything you want to elaborate on in terms of your responsibilities?

The life of Pharmacy Technician can be summed up with this one phrase:  We count by fives. We count medicine, but that is simply a witty way to make light of the work that we do because it is really much more than that. You develop a bond with patients, and you remember faces and you remember names. You get to help people and serve as bridge between the clinician and the pharmacist. The doctor prescribes the medication. The pharmacist checks it and clears it. But they come to a pharmacist technician to pick it up. In addition to this, we work as a team to ensure that patients know what they are picking up, they know how to take it, and have the opportunity to have any questions or concerns addressed. Behind the scenes we keep inventory and make sure that everything is running effectively and efficiently. Many Yale Health members may not know this, but we have one of the busiest pharmacy in the state of Connecticut. It can get really busy where we do upwards of maybe twelve hundred prescriptions on a Monday. Just to give to a slight comparison, the pharmacy I worked at before this one did twelve hundred prescriptions in one week while being open for fourteen-hour days, but here we do twelve hundred on a Monday on average and that’s with an eight-hour day. It’s pretty impressive. We have a fantastic pharmacy team; by far the best I’ve ever worked with.

What do you like most about your work? I know you alluded to working with patients, but is there anything else?

My primary passion is serving with patients and healthcare. It’s not really what I originally planned on doing. It’s something that I just kind of fell into. It’s very much an aspect of work that might sound a little cliché, but it chose me versus me choosing it. I really just fell in love with the whole service aspect of healthcare, and the opportunity it provides me to be a servant leader no matter where I am. It is very special unique role. It allows me to go home at the end of the day and say I did something for someone. I remember stories from my time as a pharmacy tech in the retail world, and patients would share with me that sometimes I’d be the only person they would talk to that given day. So little nuisance things like that and being the only ear that someone had to listen to them on that given day really stuck with me. I believe that you can summarize that with any aspect of healthcare. That personal touch really convinced me that this is where I needed to be, and this is where I needed to grow and develop. Specifically, about my work here, other than the work that I do, I love the people I work with. We have a phenomenal staff. Honestly, the work that we do wouldn’t be as efficient, effective, or excellent if we didn’t have the people working behind the scenes from the pharmacists and the technicians that we have. I’ve worked in pharmacy all my life, and this team of pharmacists and techs are the brightest and most effective group of people that I’ve ever worked with. Not only because of the type of work that they do, but also because of the quality of people that they are. It’s one of the things that I love about coming to work every day is that I get to work with people who look completely different than I do, have different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds both professionally and personally. It just makes my direct realm of work so much more fulfilling and definitely sets the tone in the pharmacy.

How many people are on your team?

11 Pharmacists and 17 Technicians.

How would you say your job affects your general lifestyle?

I wouldn’t say it affects it adversely. I would say it complements it. The retail pharmacy business exhausted me while I was at work and while I was home, just because of the sheer demand of numbers and profit and hitting certain benchmarks and goals. And that’s for pharmacy as well; in that sense the patient is more of a data point. But here, in our patient-centered environment the patient always comes first. It is fantastic when healthcare and service are your first goals versus numbers and profit. Not having that added pressure of having to be the best, be better than this store, or be better than the company average, makes work more enjoyable and the experience of coming to work that much more fulfilling. It allows me to work on my leadership craft. It allows me to work on my communication skills, without having that burden of having to hit certain demands company metrics. I honestly love what I do. In the retail world, it’s been my experience that sometimes the work comes home, and I’ve never had that in the time that I’ve been here. I think that’s an attribute that the Yale health plan should be proud of, and the staff that I work with should be proud of.

Is there anything you want to add about how you began your career? I know you also mentioned how this work chose you.

I was a student at Quinnipiac. My sister was going on leave from work and thought I would be a good fit to replace her at the Rite Aid that she was working in; and I did and turns out I loved it! I started at Rite Aid young and while I paused from my studies for a bit I was able to carve out a career path for myself. It kind of led me to realize different things about myself personally and what I wanted to do with my life. So, in a way, that’s kind of what I mean by it chose me.

Your sister is also a pharmacy technician?

Yes, my sister is also a pharmacy technician.

Do you have anyone else in the family that is a pharmacy technician?

In pharmacy, no. But I do work with two very important Pharmacists here in Lisa and John. They hired me at Rite Aid and I owe a great deal of my professional growth to their mentorship. Pharmacy been is very much a small world. Either you know someone that knows somebody, or you know someone directly.

What steps would you recommend that someone take to prepare to enter this field?

Personally, if someone aspires to become a Pharmacy Technician there’s courses and classes you can take to get licensed and certified. However, and it’s been my experience, most pharmacies will train you on the job and get you certified. That would probably be the easiest route to take to move closer to what your aspiration is if this is what you want to do. It’s not where my aspiration ends.

You just mentioned your aspirations; do you know where you want to be? Your next steps?

Healthcare is where I would like to remain. I can’t envision myself doing something that did not involve me working with people and serving patient needs. However, I would love to explore managing an office or department, possibly doing care coordination, or assisting in integrating new patients into our health plan. A role where I can bridge that link between the patient leaving the hospital and then establishing care going forward is something that I feel strongly about. Just making an impact on someone’s life in that way. I don’t really know exactly what I want to do but I know I would be up to the challenge regardless of what that future may look like. Here at the health plan there’s a plethora of opportunities for me to get involved in and try to fall into my niche.

What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job? It sounds like having people skills is very important.

Of course. If you don’t think humbly of yourself then I don’t believe this is the job for you. And when I say humbly I don’t mean thinking less of yourself, I mean thinking of yourself less in comparison to other people. Because it’s a job for people that love to serve, put themselves second, love to make a positive impact on someone’s day, and know how to absorb the negativity and channel it in a positive way. Because in healthcare and in any environment there’s the good and the bad and on some days the ugly. We must always realize that at the end of the day we’re dealing with people who are sick, and may see the world differently than us; the negative rants come as a part of the package. So, you need to have people skills, have your emotions in check, be assertive, self-motivated, and be service- oriented. You must have a heart for the patient at the end of day. Those are skills that sometimes are learned, sometimes are developed, and sometimes revealed to you along the way.

If you could do it all over again, and I know you said that the path chose you, but what would you change if anything about the current trajectory that you’ve experienced?

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that no matter what happens in your life, everything will work towards good, albeit early or later in life. The only thing I would change, is coming to the realization that healthcare is what I wanted to do right out of high school. And as cliché as it might sound, I don’t know if I would change any of the negative or the positive moments in between. They all came at the right time, especially the negative ones. They helped craft me to be the person I am today, one who is still growing. If I were to indeed change something I wouldn’t be here right now learning and doing what I love to do. You must take the punches as they come, roll with them, and adjust to them. It’s like a piece of clay, life is the potter and it molds you in different ways until you find what you’re supposed to be, and when you’re supposed to be that thing, you just stay there, thrive and grow.

I know you’re relatively new to YLNG, but do you have any thoughts about what YLNG means to you?      

YLNG was introduced to me. I knew there was an affinity group that was targeted towards people who are Hispanic or Latino, and I didn’t really know what was involved in that. I reached out to Deborah Stanley-McAulay for some guidance and mentorship because I had some inclinations and some things I wanted to do. I knew she’d be a great person to help me strategize and plan and network. She thought it’d be a great idea for me to get involved in the steering committee. After my first meeting, I realized that it was almost like a natural fit for me to help and collaborate with others represent the health plan as its voice as I share and work within the affinity groups. I’m very much excited for the advocacy work and the healthcare and wellness campaigns that we do. The networking aspect is something that also draws me to meet different people outside of my building that do and represent different things, and the diversity in that subset alone is what motivates me to stretch myself even further.

Is there anything else that you want to share? Anything you want to elaborate on? Anything you want the people reading this newsletter to know about? Or last words, or any recommendations?

In a more general sense, speaking of the Yale Health organization, your path here will very much be whatever you want it to be. Where you are doesn’t have to be the end all. Getting involved and stretching yourself out beyond your limits, in my experience would be the only way to determine whether you fit somewhere else. Yale Health and the university gives us that opportunity to do different things. Finding people that challenge you is vital; the Assistant Director of Pharmacy Bryan Cretella and John Florentino, Manager of Pharmacy Services do just that for me. You must look underneath the seashell and find the pearl that belongs to you and get yourself involved in that aspect. Sometimes it won’t be you making that realization, it will be somebody else revealing it to you. But if you don’t take that first step to kind of crossover to the other side then you won’t know. Don’t be satisfied. Always get up and when your two feet hit the ground in the morning, want to be and do more, and want to be better, however better looks to you in your personal atmosphere or environment.