2019 Indian Health Services Pharmacy Technician of the Year Awarded; Jolene Chikigak Honored for Excellence

April 17, 2019

When the call for nominations came out for IHS Technician of the Year, a large number of employees at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), thought of the same person at the same time: Jolene “JoJo” Chikigak.

Chikigak is a certified pharmacy technician and currently serves as the Pharmacy Compliance Technician for Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC), the largest IHS hospital in the nation. She is the first technician to fulfill this new role for the organization, and she continues to elevate the bar to new heights for anyone who will follow in her footsteps. While her hard work, dedication and zeal for learning stand out as national-award worthy, it’s the daily commitment to her team with enthusiasm and innovation that stand out to her coworkers and supervisors on a daily basis.

“I could not be prouder of Jolene and her accomplishments, which have earned her this honor,” said Kara King, ANTHC Director of Pharmacy. “Her enthusiasm and loyalty to our mission and to the Alaska Native community she serves is inspiring to those around her.”

“I grew up in Alakanuk, it’s a small town, probably not even 800 people there,” said Chikigak. “I knew I wanted to do something in the health field when I saw a whole health team care for my brother. But the sight of blood is not for me! At ANMC, I’ve worked in the outpatient pharmacy, then Mediset, filling in for inpatient occasionally. Eventually, I moved into my current position where I get to work with different departments and I love what I do! I look forward to coming to work and experiencing something new every day.”

Chikigak is part of a team from ANTHC’s pharmacy department assisting Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham last fall as the hospital implements new pharmacy processes for patient safety. Her efforts and influence are visible across the emergency room, inpatient, outpatient, and the endoscopy procedure room, ensuring proper storage and compliance throughout the facility. She jumps in wherever needed and is a huge asset to the team.

“In Kanakanak, everyone was so sweet and helpful, including the residents. My family understood that I had to go out of town to work so that other people could keep their jobs. I had never been to Dillingham, so I was very excited to go. I helped train the existing staff, and my supervisors gave me a lot of projects to help meet hospital requirements,” explained Chikigak. “I’m terrified of flying, but it was worth it. They would tease me in Dillingham that we should move there.”

Chikigak also spends free time volunteering for the pharmacy-run flu clinic on an annual basis, which vaccinates more than 100 patients a day every Saturday in October.

“I like to volunteer at the flu clinic because I like to give back to my Native community. I ran into an Elder, one of my dad’s long-time friends, when working at the pharmacy. When I saw him, he hugged me and told to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m helping Native people. That really stuck with me. When I’m having my hard days, I remember that. My grandmother always taught me to give back to others, don’t expect people to always give to you, and not to be selfish. My work is a way I can honor that teaching.”

Jolene received her award in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday, April 13.

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