1. Can you tell us about your role as a pharmacist at CVS Health? How long have you been with the company? Where do you work (i.e. stores)?
I’m a District Sales Manager responsible for more than 19 CVS/pharmacy stores in Southern California. I started my career with CVS Health as a pharmacy intern at CVS/pharmacy right out of school in 2004. I became a licensed pharmacist, and eventually took on the role of a Pharmacy Manager. In 2007 I moved into the role of a Pharmacy Supervisor, and in 2012, became a District Sales Manager. I’m currently in my 11th year with the company, and have been fortunate to see CVS Health evolve in that time. I’m proud to work for a company that is committed to helping people on their path to better health.
2. What is your personal connection to cancer? How has it impacted your life?
My dad had stage one kidney cancer over three years ago. I still remember the night when he called me to come over so that he could tell my mother and me the news together. It’s one of those situations you hear about day in and day out, but you can never prepare for mentally. The one person that I truly believed was infallible was suddenly made fragile by something that was out of our control. Over the course of the weeks that followed, he went into the hospital to gauge treatment options, and eventually decided that the best course of action was to remove the tumor growth on his kidney. This would essentially fully disable one of his kidneys, which was even more concerning considering my dad is also a diabetic. After the procedure, he went through post-op complications including internal bleeding and an infection, which escalated to the point where we almost lost him.
My dad lost 30 pounds during the four week ordeal, and he was in no way overweight prior to all of this. Over that same period, my grandfather had a stroke and was in another hospital for two weeks, so my mother and I split shifts sleeping at the hospitals to ensure that my father and grandfather always had someone to take care of them overnight. I remember my dad speaking to me in whispers about my responsibilities to take care of my mother, as if he was already giving up on life. I remember my mother trying to be the glue that could hold our family together, struggling to stay strong as her husband and father lay in two hospital beds. I remember my world coming to a standstill. I was used to being the person in our family to always find solutions to whatever problems I encountered, and now I suddenly had none.
The bright side of this story is that my dad survived and has been cancer-free for the past three years. The struggle during that time period still sits with me, but the victory is that we had a happy ending – and for that, we are very fortunate. What’s unfortunate is that many do not get to have the victory of survival, and the rippling impact across family and loved ones is devastating when cancer claims a life. I know my dad was lucky that we were able to catch his cancer early, and I can only imagine what our world would be like today if his cancer was diagnosed at a later stage. This ordeal really opened my eyes to the unwritten struggles of those who have had cancer impact their lives, whether it be directly or indirectly as the family or loved ones of a patient.
3. Can you tell us how you interact with cancer patients in your role as a pharmacist?
When I directly interact with cancer patients as a CVS pharmacist, I always make sure that they know that we are here to assist them in ANY way – whether it be assisting them with drug consultations, helping to get an essential medication covered, or simply listening when they need to talk. As a pharmacist, I’m also a resource for the patient’s family and loved ones, because they, too, share the struggles and worries of dealing with cancer. They’re typically the ones that have to drop everything in their lives to be full-time caregivers, which is why it’s important that we at CVS Health support them as well.
4. You were recently a part of Stand Up To Cancer’s (SU2C) latest PSA! Can you tell us what that experience was like?
It was amazing to be a part of the SU2C and CVS Health PSA! Though Julie Bowen is a celebrity, the true stars I met that day were the doctors, researchers, SU2C volunteers and cancer survivors who also were a part of this effort. SU2C is truly a diverse collaboration for a unified cause!
I also gained a lot of respect for the amount of moving parts and variables involved in making a PSA. Having someone responsible for my wardrobe and putting makeup on me every 15 minutes was a unique experience and definitely made for an interesting part of the day!
5. What inspires you to support SU2C and their mission to raise funds to advance cancer research? What does it mean to you that you were able to be directly involved with the campaign?
What inspires me about SU2C is that it’s not just a collaboration, but truly a coalition of organizations and individuals from around the world all coming together to fight the age old battle against cancer without the constrictions of working in silos with single company-based research. I feel that SU2C and its Dream Teams (groups of scientists and researchers dedicated to finding lifesaving cancer treatments) can really drive progress because they bring extremely talented people from across the country together to share their own discoveries and findings, allowing them to turbocharge their efforts and advance the research we need to put an end to cancer for good.
I’m very proud to work for a company that has allowed me to be involved with SU2C and such an inspiring campaign. When you look at the statistics, you’ll see that one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Those are startling and overwhelming numbers. The beauty of SU2C is that I don’t need to be a researcher or doctor to get involved. SU2C has many venues for anyone to participate and help find the solution – from donating to support Dream Team research to volunteering in your area. This PSA was a great way for me to be part of the movement, which is why it means a lot to me!
6. How did your friends and family react when you told them that you would be involved in the campaign?
My parents were extremely proud when I told them I was involved with this CVS Health and SU2C campaign. Though I shared my dad’s fortunate story above, our family has had many other loves ones throughout the years who were not as fortunate with their cancer. My friends were ecstatic about my involvement as well, as many of them have their own personal experiences with cancer – whether through a family member, a friend or co-worker.
7. How do you recommend people get involved with the organization if they're interested? Is there anything else you’d like to share about Stand Up to Cancer?
For more information about SU2C and ways to get involved, please check out www.cvs.com/SU2C. CVS/pharmacy will be having our second annual in-store campaign November 1 - 28, which is a great opportunity for our colleagues to raise awareness about the important work SU2C is doing in the fight against cancer and for customers to make a donation to support this great cause.
Last year, CVS Health stood up to cancer when we made the decision to remove all tobacco products from our CVS/pharmacy locations as part of our commitment to helping people lead tobacco-free lives. Now we need to keep that momentum through our colleagues and our customers to continue helping people on their path to better health. Together, we can make a difference in the fight against cancer.