Raymond Alcaraz, PharmD, California Health Sciences University (CHSU) College of Pharmacy 2021 alum, serves as a Clinical Ambulatory Care Pharmacist at Omni Family Health (Omni) in Delano where his passion for serving the Spanish-speaking community is on full display.
Dr. Alcaraz knows that the Central Valley has a large population who only speak Spanish and often have trouble finding health providers that can speak their native language and understand their culture. When a patient can connect with a provider at that level, it can help patients better adhere to physician and pharmacist recommendations for treatment, and they understand what the medication does for them and the importance of taking it as prescribed. Something he knows first-hand from losing his mother at the age of 4, due to a miscommunication that caused a medication overdose. At Omni, Dr. Alcaraz works with patients like his mom daily – for several Omni locations in addition to Delano.
“Most of my time is spent speaking to patients in Spanish,” said Dr. Alcaraz. “Once they find out a doctor at Omni can speak their language, they’ll open up and ask me questions they’ve had for years and transfer all their prescriptions to our pharmacy.”
At Omni, Dr. Alcaraz’s conversations with Spanish-speaking patients often leads him to discover more about how the pharmacy can meet their needs to increase adherence of medication, such as financial barriers. Many of the patients are covered by Medical and Medicaid, which qualifies the Omni pharmacy to have a 340B inventory that allows Dr. Alcaraz to provide medication to patients at little to no cost. His role also allows him to participate in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee with three other clinical pharmacists to address patient needs at Omni clinics, where he helps develop protocols for the Omni collaborative agreement that expands the scope of practice for pharmacists.
In his first year with Omni, Dr. Alcaraz has led and contributed to multiple protocols. He advocated for the ability for pharmacists to provide insulin to diabetic patients when they don’t have enough refills; he helped get Naloxone, a drug to rapidly reverse opioid overdose, in his pharmacy to dispense to anyone who comes in and wants to have one on hand; and wrote a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) protocol to help patients with HIV exposure gain access to these medications through their pharmacy, closing the time gap between exposure and treatment.
He also monitors inventory levels and shortages of medications and helps makes recommendations to physicians about alternatives to prescribe if a medication is not available.
Dr. Alcaraz credits his confidence in collaborating with other pharmacists and physicians to his education at the CHSU College of Pharmacy. As a pharmacy student, he knew that pairing his passion for health care with research projects and leadership roles in student organizations would build his communication and leadership skills. As a registered pharmacist, Dr. Alcaraz now applies what he has learned to providing innovative care to patients.
“It’s amazing to see the impact of the knowledge I gained from putting myself out there during pharmacy school when I was the president of student organizations and doing research,” said Dr. Alcaraz. “As a pharmacist, now I see the connection between the research I presented at the American Thoracic Society Conference on the C22 drug that showed promise in treating pulmonary fibrosis. Here I am, three years later, and we’re giving medication for that same exact illness that I am familiar with because of my experience as a student leader.”
Born in Madera, Dr. Alcaraz always knew he wanted to serve the Central Valley community as a pharmacist and hopes that more local students choose to pursue health care professions. He currently is a preceptor for CHSU pharmacy students on rotations at Omni.
“I enjoy what I’m doing as a clinical pharmacist, and I just want to do more. I feel rewarded working with CHSU students to expand their knowledge and show them other aspects of what clinical pharmacists can do. It allows me to prepare and push them to use their resources here at Omni to gain experience and advocate for themselves so they can nail their interviews for residency.” Dr. Alcaraz encourages students considering a career in health care to simply take the leap and see all the opportunities that await up-and-coming health care providers in the Valley.