At Neighborhood, we are fortunate to have some of the most talented, hard-working employees of any organization around. What you may not know are the intricacies of employees’ jobs or the wide array of talents, hobbies and interests outside of their day jobs that make each employee truly unique. That’s why the Human Resources department in collaboration with the Corporate Communications team has launched this special series. We want you to get to know the amazing people you work with! To achieve this, we’ll use a Q&A format paired with photos to spotlight our staff.

To kick off the series, meet Gary Chavez, MPA, CHW, manager of clinical management for the Medical Management department. Read below and enjoy “meeting” Gary!

Gary Chavez Head Shot
Gary Chavez

How long have you worked at Neighborhood and what prompted you to seek employment here?
I have worked for Neighborhood for almost 10 years now. Looking back, I wanted to work for the organization because of the great work that they did for the community. I also wanted to do something where I could help those in need, and since Neighborhood serves the most at-risk people in Rhode Island, a position here really appealed to me. My previous job as a banker was not very fulfilling, and I knew that I wanted a career in health care.

Gary's First Year at Neighborhood - with Yvonne
Gary striking a pose with Yvonne Heredia, senior manager of care management, at Neighborhood’s Gala 10 years ago.

In your current role at Neighborhood, what are your key job responsibilities and what aspect of your position do you most enjoy?
In my current role, I manage a team of 14 Community Care Coordinators. Our goal is to engage our members, telephonically or in the community, to help complete their health risk assessments. I am also responsible for managing productivity, developing strategies to increase our member contact rates, and departmental projects. Overall, what I enjoy the most, is working with my team and helping them achieve positive health outcomes for our members.

What did you do before joining Neighborhood?
Before I joined Neighborhood, I was working as a customer service representative for Bank of America. I was responsible for account inquiries, text support for online banking, credit card sales, bill pay and bank fees. The role gave me excellent experience in how to manage my own personal finances, time management, and how to provide excellent customer service. This experience has served me well at Neighborhood.

Of all the projects and initiatives you have worked on at Neighborhood, which one stands out as being especially meaningful to you?
It is hard to pick just one so I’ll share two. I really enjoyed coordinating referrals for the BrightStart Program, which provides support and information for our pregnant members. The program helped me learn to use several systems pretty well, including Acuity, HealthRules, and Diamond (older Disk Operating System). I enjoyed being part of a team that was helping our members obtain healthy birth outcomes.

Another project I found rewarding was a challenging one – the development and implementation of our new 13-question health risk assessment. Neighborhood wanted to develop a more comprehensive assessment that not only identified medical and social needs, but social determinants of health as well. The experience taught me many things such as cross-departmental coordination and collaboration, system testing and modifications, and how to manage people. The project boosted my confidence and helped break me out of my shell.

Tell us a little bit about your upbringing – sharing what helped shaped your future.  

I am originally from the Dominican Republic, but raised here in Providence, Rhode Island. As a child I always loved school, reading, and showed a great interest in health care. In my early teens, I was accepted in a four-year Nurse Assistant Program at Mount Pleasant High school, where I went on to graduate with my CNA license. Unfortunately, I learned very quickly that I did not do well with blood or wounds, so I had to revisit my career strategy and goals. My late teens and early twenties were fun, exciting, and at times, difficult. However, I felt as if the world had many lessons to teach me, and I was ready for whatever they were.

As a first generation college student, navigating school was a bit of a challenge at first. I took many different courses until I finally decided to complete my undergrad in Communications. I worked full- time at Neighborhood during the day, and then commuted to URI’s Feinstein Campus downtown for my evening classes. I attended school full-time, four times a week, until I finally obtained my bachelor’s degree.

Later in life, I returned to URI to obtain my master’s degree in Public Administration, and a few years after that I enrolled in a master’s degree program for Healthcare Management (which I am currently completing). In between this time, I obtained certifications in management, project management, and now six sigma.

I will always be thankful for Jean McCabe, Manager of Clinical Informatics, and Yvonne Heredia, Senior Manager of Care Management, for always encouraging me to continue my education. Also, to Neighborhood for the generous tuition reimbursement, which was a lifesaver. Last, but definitely not least, I could not have done all this without the help and support of my parents who always made sure I had something to eat after I got out of class at 10 o’clock at night.

As for a hobby that helped shape who I am, I picked up reading and collecting comic books in 2001, which is something that I still do today. Reading the “funny-books”, as they used to be called, helped enforce the values that my parents taught me in relation to responsibility, helping others, and always doing the right thing.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Why?
“Learn and read as much as you can. Never stop your education.” I received this advice from a co-worker named Linda at my first job at the University Cardiology Foundation, when I was 16.  It never escaped my mind, and it proved to be very rewarding.

What is something about you that others might find surprising or intriguing?
Something that most do not know about me is that I can play the violin. It has been a very long time since I have played, but I still remember the strings as if the instrument was still in my hand. A “Fun Fact” about me is that in first grade (here in America), I won a Mother’s Day drawing contest and it was showcased in a local Latino newspaper, along with a picture of my family and me. Finally, as you can imagine, I am very passionate about education and health care, so I taught a Self-Management Diabetes course as a side project, not long ago!

What advice or recommendations would you give to someone interested in pursuing the type of career you are in?
My advice to someone who is interested in pursuing the type of career that I am in, would be the same advice that I received when I was 16…“Learn and read as much as you can. Never stop your education.”