From Teen Volunteer to Pharmacy Manager: Johns Hopkins All Children’s Volunteer Program Provides Return on Investment

Jena Valdes, pharmacy manager at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, became a hospital volunteer as a teen which sparked her interest in a medical career.

From Teen Volunteer to Pharmacy Manager

Jena Valdes

Published in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - Spring 2018

(Koshaish) Valdes would visit Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital on the weekends, when her dad, an electrical engineer, would make service calls to repair equipment in the cardiac catheterization labs. “That’s really what sparked my interest in medicine,” she says. “I would meet nurses, techs and physicians who were there while my dad was working. She thought maybe someday, she would become a pediatrician.

Years later, as a freshman at St. Petersburg High School, she still had her sights set on becoming a pediatrician and decided the best way to learn more was to sign up to be a teen volunteer at the hospital.

“My first assignment in 1998 was in Child Life,” she recalls. “I worked with cystic fibrosis patients. They were usually lonely in isolation. So, I helped them pass the time by playing games. I also joined the hospital’s Medical Explorer post. We had a lot of guest speakers from many areas of medicine and that really made an impression on me.”

All these experiences never changed her mind about wanting to pursue a career in health care, it validated it. She continued her volunteer work each week and also became the president of our teen-led Medical Explorer post before graduating from high school in 2002.

While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of South Florida, she had a change of heart about becoming a pediatrician. “My aunt is a pharmacist and when I figured out you could do clinical pharmacy and pediatrics, I said that’s for me! I really liked chemistry and I liked science, so I started looking into pharmacy.”

She was accepted into the University of Florida’s pharmacy program where she obtained her doctor of pharmacy degree (PharmD.).

After two years in a pharmacy residency program, first, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and then back at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, the hospital hired her in 2012 as a pharmacist.

“I came back right after we moved to the new hospital building, and we were in the process of becoming part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, so it felt like the perfect match,” Valdes says.

“No matter what role she is in, Jena always displays a passion for pharmacy and our contribution to patient care," says Matthew Werling, Johns Hopkins All Children’s pharmacy director. “I have watched her thrive and am thankful for all of her contributions to our organization."

“Our teen volunteers really learn to understand our culture, so these are the people we really hope will come back someday as employees,” said Allyson Crawford, manager of Volunteer Resources at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. “We feel like we are in the long-term recruitment business. We have so many talented young people that come here to volunteer, and we always hope that when they finish their education that they are going to come back to us,” she says.

“It’s just such an honor to be here,” Valdes says. “I always wanted to grow from my volunteer experience. It was perfect timing. Everything just fell into place. Since I’ve been on staff here, I’ve gone from a pharmacy resident, to a pharmacist and then became a pharmacy educator. In 2017, I was promoted to pharmacy manager. My job involves managing drug shortages and making sure the right drug gets to the patient on time. I supervise 18 pharmacists. It’s a dream come true.”

The retail pharmacy at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 501 Sixth Ave. S. in St. Petersburg. The pharmacy at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care, Tampa, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 12220 N Bruce B Downs Blvd.