Thank you cards hang on a bulletin board above Gloria Jimenez’ workstation inside the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“You provide me hope of a longer future with my family,” reads one. “Many thanks.”

The handwritten cards, from grateful patients and family members, serve as a reminder for the important work Jimenez and her colleagues do each day to ensure patients have access to the medications they need.

Keck Medical Center employee of the year Gloria Jimenez, senior pharmacy tech, is seen with Cirilo, a pet therapy dog, at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are advocates for our patients, said Jimenez, the Keck Medical Center of USC 2016 Employee of the Year and a pharmacy procurement specialist at USC Norris. “To be there with them is the best part of my job.”

She was honored for the Employee of the Year award on Dec. 14 and presented with a check for $2,500.

Since joining Keck Medical Center in 2010, Jimenez has transformed her job into a front-line role where she works directly with patients, family members, physicians and drug manufacturers to ensure patients receive the medicine they need, regardless if they have been denied by their insurance companies. Jimenez works to get chemotherapy drugs directly from manufacturers, helping patients get medications they otherwise wouldn’t while saving the medical center more than $1.6 million in insurance costs.

Jimenez was nominated for employee of the month seven times and was recognized for her positive attitude, professionalism, efficiency, leadership and sense of ownership among other qualities, said Rod Hanners, CEO of Keck Medical Center of USC and COO, Keck Medicine of USC.

“Gloria is an ambassador and liaison to patients and physicians and was instrumental in creating a patient assistance program for our cancer patients,” Hanners said. “She has helped more than 50 cancer patients access treatment, and assisted patients with receiving funding to help with their financial burden, and getting hotel accommodations for patients with high risk outpatient treatments.”

“She is a true humanitarian who is passionate about helping people in any way she can,” Hanners added.

Jimenez’ role not only included facilitating paperwork and applications for patients, it includes working directly with physicians, helping family members navigate the often-complex insurance hurdles and comprehend emotionally difficult diagnosis and collaborating with her colleagues to ensure the correct medications are delivered to patients.

The Torrance-resident began her work in health care as a pharmacy clerk in high school.

“To me, a pharmacy is like the back of my hand,” she said.

Her work often transcends the pharmacy. She was named Employee of the Month in June by a USC Norris staff member after helping non-English speaking family members of a patient diagnosed with lymphoma understand the diagnosis and his health care plan. She often visited the patient in his room to ensure he was eating well and had access to the food he wanted. She recently received a thank you note from the family members of the patient, who were once considering hospice care for their loved one. He is now cancer free.

She has visited with patients in their rooms after she clocks out for the day, playing the Uno card game and watching basketball on television with a 32-year-old leukemia patient.

Jimenez said working with young cancer patients has had a tremendous impact on her work.

“I see them, and I see myself,” she said. “I never end the day without feeling grateful for the opportunity to work for our patients.”

— Douglas Morino