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 your fellow 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 created this special series. We want you to get to know the amazing people you work with! To achieve this, we use a Q&A format paired with photos to spotlight employees.
Our September Spotlight features Tanairi Garcia, Manager of Operations for the Health@Home Program, Primary Care Department. Enjoy “meeting” Tanairi!
How long have you worked at Neighborhood, what do you do here and what part of your job do you most enjoy?
I have worked at Neighborhood since November 2014 and have been very fortunate during my time here to continuously advance in my role and responsibilities – growing within the Health@Home program. I started as the very first community health worker for the program, advanced to the position of lead community health worker, then on to the role of supervisor of operations and, just last month, was thrilled to be promoted to manager of operations. I love working for this innovative program that focuses on the member as a whole and am so happy that I began working for the program as it was launching.
For anyone unfamiliar with Health@Home, it’s a separate business unit from Neighborhood’s health plan operations but is fully staffed by Neighborhood employees. The program works like a provider practice but in the homes of members rather than in a doctor’s office. The types of members Health@Home serves are people who have not responded well to routine clinic-based care. These members have complex medical, behavioral and social needs and are often managing multi-chronic disabling conditions.
What did you do before joining Neighborhood?
I started my career in health care when I was 18, working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in homes. I was 21 when I joined the team at PACE Organization of Rhode Island. Their main goal is to keep older patients with complex health needs living in their homes and in their communities because that is their wish. Through my work at PACE, I learned and developed many of the skills I use today, I gained a strong understanding of how the health care system works and I was exposed to different aspects of patients’ care needs as well as to care planning and working with an interdisciplinary team. One of the most important roles I held there was serving as the manager of the homecare department as it gave me great experience conducting homecare assessments. This is when you visit patients’ homes and determine their need for in home services. Through this work, I also learned to collaborate closely with home health agencies.
This experience was a perfect pathway to the work I do at Neighborhood as it gave me a better understanding of the population I work with as well as how to address their health care needs.
Of all the projects you have worked on at Neighborhood, which one stands out as being especially meaningful to you?
Not necessarily a project but certainly a big moment for me was taking over the continued operations for the Health@Home program during the transition of our previous program lead to our current lead, Dr. Michael Ross. As supervisor of operations at the time of the transition, I was asked to work closely with the manager of clinical quality to ensure that the program continued to operate smoothly through the transition period and during the onboarding of Dr. Ross. Through that exposure and experience, I pushed myself to learn new areas of the everyday functions and operations of Health@Home.
Tell us a little bit about the years you spent growing up – sharing what helped shaped your future.
I spent almost the first eight years of my life in Brooklyn, New York with my parents and three older siblings – two brothers and a sister. My parents had me late in life so I always felt like I had five parents because my siblings were so much older than me. Not a bad thing because everyone in my family spoiled me as the youngest child but just a different family dynamic. From a young age, I was especially close to my sister who is 24 years older than me. She took me everywhere and treated me like her daughter – even after she got married and had three kids of her own. In fact, when I was 8 years old, my sister moved to Providence with her family and I missed them so much that I built up the courage to ask my parents if I could move to Rhode Island to live with them. I was so used to spending most of my time with my sister and her family when they lived in New York, that life wasn’t the same after they moved – especially since my Mom traveled so much for her business and my Dad worked so much. So…my parents allowed me to move to Rhode Island to live with them and I’ve been here ever since. I usually visited my parents in New York on weekends. Not the most traditional upbringing but it worked for me!
I was fortunate to grow up in a middle class family. I always had what I needed – I was actually spoiled between living with my sister and my parents buying me what I needed. I was also blessed to grow up in a clean and beautiful home. My sister is a very tidy person and kept her house well maintained. I will always remember her beautiful white couches and fancy china cabinets! It wasn’t until I was 18 and started working in others’ homes as a CNA that I realized not everyone lived as we did. I quickly started seeing a very different world in this role and realized I had lived in a bubble up until this point. This perspective gave me a great appreciation for everything I had and has stuck with me all my life.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Why?
I’ll share a quick story before answering this to provide some context. I have a fear of mice and one day, while working in the day center at my previous job, a mouse ran across the floor. I saw it and I panicked. I yelled and everyone turned in my direction. My manager quickly came to my side and asked to speak with me. It was during this conversation that the phrase “lead by example” really connected with me. She said, “Always remember that good leaders remain calm at all times to avoid creating angst and chaos among staff. You want your behavior to be something you’d be proud to see others replicating.” At the time, I wasn’t at a level where I was managing staff, but I quickly realized during this conversation that my manager had seen potential in me. She had identified a teachable moment – calling out behavior that was not very ‘leader like.’ Because of that manager and the advice she shared, I evolved in many ways and soon advanced within the organization. To this day, I always try to lead by example.
What advice or recommendations would you give to someone interested in the type of career you are in?
It’s important to find value in the work you do and to make every moment count. When you care for members in their homes, you’re often only in their lives for a short period of time. That time, however, can have a big impact on their quality of life. They will remember every little thing you did for them.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I am not working, I enjoy spending as much time as possible with my children and my extended family. Time with my children is really important to me and I cherish every minute of it – especially since my Mom passed away last year and I’m thankful for all the great memories I have of my time with her. I just wish I could have had her in my life longer. I was in my early thirties when she passed away. She is one of the reasons I love spending quality time with my own children.
One of my favorite things to do with my children is try out new restaurants. With their Dad being a chef and my oldest son learning to be a chef, it’s fun to check out different restaurants and try out various types of food. We also love any kind of gathering with our extended family. That includes traveling to the Dominican Republic together because that’s where my Dad and many of my relatives live and where my family is originally from. Before the pandemic, we would go three to four times a year. It certainly helps that my niece works for United Airlines!
Share a “Fun Fact” with us. Something about you that others might find surprising or intriguing?
I love to rollerblade! My Mom bought me my first pair of rollerblades when I was 4 years old and I’ve been rollerblading ever since. Anywhere that has a nice hill works for me!
I also love to dance with my family! Dancing is a big part of my culture. It is not uncommon for us to be talking at a family gathering one minute and then breaking into a salsa or another dance the next minute. Just like the video below that shows me dancing with my Mom at a family gathering in the Dominican Republic. You know that saying, “Dance like nobody’s watching”? That’s what we did!