Women of PDX: A Sit Down with Cheryl Jorgenson, Chief Clinical Officer
It’s no secret that patient advocacy is a passion of Cheryl Jorgenson’s, Chief Clinical Officer at PDX. The hard work she has put into her career was recently recognized by The Healthcare Technology Report’s Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare Software of 2019. Cheryl shares her journey in the healthcare industry and her thoughts on how healthcare can change in order to put the patient first.
What did your journey in healthcare look like before coming to PDX?
CJ: “While I was getting my biology degree, I worked at a hospital in Florida as an IV technician in the pharmacy. I was able to meet and work with a group of awesome pharmacists that became my mentors. During my time there, one of the doctors, Dr. Lu, suggested I become a pharmacist. Initially I was hesitant, but after some persuasion, I went to pharmacy school and got my doctorate.
While I was in pharmacy school, I worked at a small drugstore owned by Gene Argo, who was president of NABP (National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) and one of my greatest mentors. Gene showed me the bigger picture of what pharmacy could be. He got me involved in different aspects of pharmacy, outside of retail and hospital.
When I finished school, I was a Nuclear Pharmacist and at the time there were only a few women who held that title. While I was doing something very different, I wanted to be able to give back to the community. So, I left and went into PBM (Pharmacy Benefit Management) and wrote clinical criteria for specialty medications. A few years after of being in PBM, I felt it was still political and not about the patient.
I met a nurse coordinator who started a pharmacy for people with bleeding disorders and she asked me to join her as a partner. The more we gave back to the community, we got back ten-fold. In five years, we got accredited and eventually, we sold the company.
After selling the pharmacy, I went to Medco where I worked with the prior authorization department approving high-tech, bio-technology drugs. I also received my certification as a Certified Specialty Pharmacist and found my way to PDX shortly after.”
Your passion lies in patient advocacy. In your opinion, what are some ways healthcare can change in order to put the patient first?
CJ: “I believe that if we can educate patients to be more in charge of their own healthcare, they will demand to be first. Right now, they don’t even know the names of their medication or what they’re used for, in a true sense. If we can change that, to where they are more responsible, it will change the whole dynamic of the healthcare industry making money vs. putting the patient first. The healthcare industry as a whole can educate patients on the basics and go from there.”
What are your thoughts on the progress of women in leadership roles in healthcare?
CJ: “I am really excited about the direction it is going. I’ll sometimes sit down and have a talk with my three children (two are millennials) about prejudice or bias in the workplace and they look at me like I’m crazy. They don’t see that, which makes me excited because that’s not what I experienced on my journey in the healthcare industry. There have been a lot of women and men that have laid the groundwork for women to succeed, and for them I am truly grateful. “
What do you enjoy most about working at PDX?
CJ: “I get to have the opportunity to learn from so many smart people. Upon joining PDX, I remember being in a meeting and having to look up many words that I have never heard of. I would think to myself, “Wow, these people are so incredibly smart.”
So, I went back to school and got my Master’s in Healthcare Informatics because it was so challenging just to keep up and understand what they were saying. I am so lucky to work at place like PDX, where I am amazed daily by all of the intelligent people around me.”
What do you enjoy most about your role as Chief Clinical Officer?
CJ: “There are lots of things I enjoy about my job. I get to work at a company that wants to help pharmacies put their patients first and I am surrounded by brilliant people.
Not only is my work meaningful, but I also get to have a life outside of work. For example, I was able to take time off recently and go HALO jumping with my son. I also have time to take care of the cows, horses, and a brand-new baby horse we own.
I work hard, but I also play really hard.”
What is some advice you would give a young person about to start their career in the healthcare industry?
CJ: “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are.
Never give up. If you can’t reach your goal going down one path, there is going to be another. Just don’t give up.
Find yourself a great mentor. They can teach you things that you can’t get from a book. “