Highlighting Black Health Care Workers: Technicians Discuss Giving Back to Community


Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy technician leadership from UPMC Presbyterian discuss what being a Black health care workers means to them.

This video features staff from UPMC Presbyterian: Matthew Lauderdale, pharmacy technician; Celeste Johnson, pharmacy technician intermediate, Taivion Voynes, pharmacy technician, Brenda Russell, CPhT, technical supervisor, Nakesha Tyler, CPhT, technical supervisor; and Serena Woods-Wilson, senior pharmacy technician.

vectorfusionart / stock.adobe.com

vectorfusionart / stock.adobe.com

Matthew Lauderdale: I feel as though being a technician helping out with the vaccine clinics was actually pretty interesting. I mean, at that time, I was not a technician. I was as a volunteer, but I really did appreciate the opportunity to go and help people and be able to assist those in need, especially when it was such a rough time for a lot of people. It was a bit of a time for everybody. So, I think it was something that everybody needed to a degree.

Taivion Voynes: I would agree. It was definitely a good experience. And it gave me a lot of knowledge and stuff that I didn't really know about. Like, I didn't, I had never seen anything like that being set up or just the organization. And then the way the community responded to the vaccines and the clinics, like, it was just a whole experience that I've never had before. I enjoyed it a lot.

Serena Woods-Wilson: The vaccine clinic for me was, it was fun, it was exciting. I enjoyed working with people. It was the first time that I really got out into the community where I live. And the response from the community was amazing. They were so excited and appreciative of what we were doing. It was a vibe. It was really a vibe. I get to meet a lot of people, made a lot of connections with other people and other facilities. Working at the clinic as an experience.

Brenda Russell: Being a leader in the department—first, let me say it took some time getting there. However, now being there, being able to kind of see and sit back and watch and look at the day-to-day flow that our technicians are coming in and bringing every day, being able to lead a group of technicians that are on a mission. You know, the mission is to make sure that these patients get everything that they need here in the hospital. So, I think leading by example, and actually having technicians want to go through that career path with us, after us, us opening up some doors for everyone that wants to come through that pharmacy technician experience.

Nakesha Tyler: For me, again, it's being a part of an organization as big as it is, as big as Presbyterian hospital. The inpatient pharmacy, a lot of the pharmacies that I've worked with previously were smaller, more, maybe like 3 to 4 people. This organization that we work with, there's so many people. There's so many day-to-day interactions that you have with your senior managers, with your supervisors and the technicians that we work alongside of, so being a part of that aspect of the inpatient pharmacy, the leadership side, has been huge for me. Mentoring, helping the technicians grow and be better, wanting to guide their paths and their careers, and even if it doesn't lead them to stay in pharmacy, but just giving them the chance, the opportunity, something that may have not been available to them had they not had a African American supervisor. So, those are the things that I'm happy to be a part of—breaking down those barriers, being a part of that. So, Matt is one of the pharmacy technicians that works alongside of me every day. And he did not start off on this journey, but he's learned a lot and he's just awesome. So, he's one of the top performers on my shift. And then, just working alongside of Miss Celeste and Serena and seeing them day-to-day and that interactions with the daylight crew, and just seeing these women grow and them learn, that’s the biggest reward for me, more than any monetary value could ever be placed. It's just to see the people grow throughout the organization and become better. So, thank you guys.

Brenda Russell: So, it kind of helped, you know, to know that you guys were helping you on your journey. And as you're going through your journey, we're coming with you. So, it's much appreciated the way that you guys come in, and take that role, and just run with it when you're doing your day-to-day operations down in the main pharmacy. So, it’s awesome to look at and see.

Celeste Johnson: What it means to me is reaching back and giving back what our ancestors and people before me has given. I believe that we're striving to go towards that mark. We're not there yet. We are striving to get there. I like to celebrate the fact that we're moving towards a goal. We have, as far as I'm concerned—like I have my grandchildren, I want to sit them down and get them to know that they can make it, that they can do anything possible. They can reach to whatever they have in mind to. I’ve always sat down with them and let them know that whatever you desire to do, you can do that. Because we have people that has gone before us, you know. And like, if I tell them about the Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, or Whitney Houston or Harriet Tubman, I just don't say their names. I also give them the reflection of what they did to bring us to where we are today. To know that there's other leaders, not so much back there in the 1800s, but we have people right now that we can look up to, that we can use them as a role model. You know, it's not always about a sports person, but there's a poet out there that's 14 years old, maybe she's went before the President. I mean, she read a poem. It doesn't always have to be somebody that's an age. You can start out as being as young as you want to be. As long as you have a voice, you can have that opinion. So, that's why I encourage anyone younger than me, my age, older than me, that there’s a vison, and you can follow that vision, and you can explore it, as well as being a part of it as well.

Serena Woods-Wilson: I don't view myself as being a Black medical professional. I view myself as a medical professional, that happens to be Black. I feel that I'm in a role that I can make a difference. I can be a role model. My son, now, is interested in pharmacy. He's an IT person, but he's now interested in pharmacy and excited about pharmacy. So, I think that being a person of color in the medical profession is representation in the medical field, that people can view in a positive way that they can strive for something more.

Matthew Lauderdale: I feel as though, being within the, I guess, the scope of pharmacy, as well as just in the medical field as a person of color, it really does make me feel as though there's not as much of a limit as I thought there used to be. I feel like a lot of the people that I went to school with or grew up with, a lot of the people who wanted to go into the medical community, they weren't like me. A lot of them were like, okay, I'm just here to get business degree so I can go and do this., I want to go into sound engineering, and this and that. And that's all well and good. But, a lot of people shied away from being part of the medical community, and I was also one of them. So, I feel like now, with the forethought that I've developed over time, I really do appreciate being a part of the medical community as another Black person and seeing that I can also be somewhat of a role model myself.

Taivion Voynes: So, for me, being a Black person in the medical field, I feel like I’ve been alone on a lot of the things I’ve done. So, just going through school, I was 1 of maybe 3 kids in my classes, out of all of my classes, like only 3 of us would have together and we were just like out-numbered. And even then, going into certain workplaces, I noticed the same thing. Like, you're out-numbered. So, as for me choosing this for my career, I felt like I was going to be able to help other people not feel like that. And I felt like I would be, like Matt said, like more of a role model, and I will have others look up to me and possibly want to enter this field as well.

I know, my little sister, actually, she wants to be a veterinarian. She has seen all of the stuff I've went through in school. She's went through, like, the textbooks and everything. And she was still even interested, and I was surprised because some of that stuff is very hard. But she’s always been an animal person, and just her love for animals and then me introducing her to the health field, she was like, I want to help dogs, I want to be able to—what did she ask me—I think she wanted to be like a nurse that delivers puppies and stuff like that. I don't know exactly what it's called, maybe a vet technician. But she was looking at it. She was thinking about stuff like that. So, that kind of made a positive impact on me. I felt like I was doing something good. So, I feel like just other Black people being into the health care field, I think it will do the same thing for a lot more kids. And it could, you know, inspire a whole generation.

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