October 15 is National Pharmacy Tech Day, celebrating our pharmacy coworkers who help keep our CMH pharmacies running smoothly. Get to know some of the pharmacy technicians a little better.
By Sarah Bello, Marketing & Communications Specialist
Before becoming a pharmacy tech, Grace Smith worked at the Philippine Stock Exchange as an assistant manager of the information technology (IT) department. With a bachelor’s degree in computer science, the position was a good fit.
A born-and-raised Filipina, Smith moved to Southern Oregon in 2002 and began a career at an independent retail pharmacy — still working in IT support. When her contract work expired, she was offered a position as a pharmacy tech. Although initially skeptical that she would like it, she says it was one of the best decisions she has made.
“I fell in love with a pharmacy career,” she says.
Smith and her husband, also a pharmacy tech, moved to Astoria in June 2015 after their son went to college. While here, Smith worked for a chain pharmacy for a few months until an opening became available at the CMH Outpatient Pharmacy. Since she had worked for both an independent retail and a chain pharmacy, she wanted to try working in a hospital.
Smith started in the Outpatient Pharmacy in November 2015 and has been at CMH almost four years now. After her first year, she was offered a job as a clinical analyst in the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative to assist in the implementation of a new software.
Now she works in the Cancer Collaborative as the 340B analyst, a job she jokingly says should be called 340C analyst, since the 340B program can be “confusing, complicated and cumbersome.” 340B is a federal program created by Congress to help certain hospitals and health care facilities in underserved areas to stretch scarce federal resources and reach more patients.
“The program allows CMH to obtain discounted prices on ‘covered outpatient drugs’ from participating drug manufacturers,” Smith explains. “The main result of CMH’s involvement is a reduction in expenses for pharmaceuticals. Aside from the savings on pharmaceutical expenses, the program also generates additional revenue to CMH through contract pharmacy relationships with Safeway, Walgreens and Rite Aid.
“CMH uses this savings and revenue to give back to our community in several ways.”
Smith’s IT background and pharmacy knowledge combine in this unique position to help her maintain 340B compliance for CMH, enabling her to “experience the best of two worlds.”
After beginning her day with a large cup of coffee, she works to ensure CMH follows program regulations by performing self-audits of the Cancer Collaborative, main hospital, Outpatient Pharmacy and contract pharmacies. She reviews policies and procedures regularly, maintains 340B compliance, monitors 340B dispensing patterns, purchasing, receiving, billing and inventory control processes, and provides reports on 340B activities, in addition to myriad other responsibilities.
With everything, she aims to “spread cheerfulness and upbeat greetings” wherever she is, she says with a smile. Smith’s favorite part of her job is the people she works with. Because the interpretation of 340B rules can be different with different sources, she must be flexible in her thinking – a challenge she finds gratifying.
Although the 340B program can be complex, Smith says the benefits it offers to the patients in the community are worth the trouble.
“It does not cost patients or taxpayers anything,” she says. “For me to be able to help keep CMH compliant in the 340B program and navigate the murky waters of federal regulations, keeping resources in our community and working for our patients — it is so rewarding!”
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