Employer Spotlight: Carlo Varquez (MS ’18) LifeStart

The Health Care & Science (HCS) Career Community wants to introduce students to a wide range of careers. Students may be familiar with popular clinical roles (e.g., nurse, physician, veterinarian), but less familiar with jobs like healthcare data analytics, health administration, or biotech research.  

Today, we highlight a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and small business owner. In a virtual interview, Debbie Kaltman (HCS Employer Engagement Specialist) spoke with Carlo Varquez (MS Exercise Physiology ‘18) to learn about his educational and career journey, insights into pursuing preventative health and fitness professions, and advice to students.

Carlo’s educational and clinical experiences in the healthcare industry shifted his perspective and career goals to focus on preventing rather than treating health issues. In the health promotion, wellness, and fitness industry, Carlos serves as a general manager for LifeStart and founder of Pride Wellness, a small business built to empower clients to invest in their overall health via online classes and coaching sessions. As a certified fitness trainer and nutrition coach, Carlos seeks to take care of other people’s health so they come to feel better about themselves, believe they’re part of something, and vision their life in different ways. He plans to keep learning to become a “master trainer” who has a well-rounded skill set and is well-known as a person who will work hard for his clients.

Carlo’s advice to students interested in preventative health, wellness, and fitness: “Invest in yourself first before you invest in others! A) It gives you credibility. You practice what you preach. B) If you’re not following the right steps to keep yourself healthy, it’s going to be hard to advise others to be healthy.”

“Take every opportunity no matter how big it may seem. If you feel like it’s the right thing in your gut, just do it. I’m a big advocate for that gut feeling. It doesn’t make sense, you don’t know why it’s making you feel this way, but it feels right at the same time. Just follow your gut and take care of yourself.”

How I got this job: Valentina Djordjevic Physician Assistant

During Spring Quarter 2021, the Health Care & Science Career Community team sat down with DePaul students to learn about the educational and career journey of DePaul alum, Valentina Djordjevic (Health Sciences, ‘16). After completing the Physician Assistant (PA) program at Rosalind Franklin University, she is now a PA-C at Able Psychiatry. Valentina shared her story of gaining research, work, volunteer, and clinical experiences while at DePaul, deciding to pursue a career as a PA, her current job responsibilities, and her future career goals. In this event, Valentina highlighted what being a PA means to her and the importance of pursuing your passions.

Words of wisdom from Valentina Djordjevic

Valentina on deciding to become a PA:

“For me it was pretty easy to be a PA because it was quick. Two years seemed pretty doable for me. It offered me the opportunity to work in multiple specialties which I liked at that time because I wasn’t exactly sure that I wanted to be in psychiatry. The GRE also seemed more doable than the MCAT for me. I also liked that there wasn’t a residency requirement for PA school. I really liked that I could get this degree and then start working right away. I wanted to stay in the sciences. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be financially independent and be able to have a good income. I think it was a pretty easy decision for me to go into the PA track.” 

Valentina on the importance of mentoring for a PA:

“A piece of advice about post-PA school is that you really want to find a job where you will be taught. There are a ton of opportunities for PAs out there, and they seem really appealing. They’re going to throw a lot of money at you, and just be careful that they don’t throw you out to the wolves because PA school is really fast. You’re getting this degree with the hope that you’ll be trained really well at your first job, but if you aren’t, you’re gonna have a huge stunt in your growth. It’s really important to have a mentor: someone that you can ask questions to, someone that is expecting you to not know what you’re doing. If it’s a good growth opportunity, that might be better than a more appealing pay stub at the end of the day because if you get good training, you can go anywhere.”

How I got this job: Nia Hurst Research Biologist

During Winter Quarter 2021, the Health Care & Science Career Community team sat down with DePaul students to learn about the educational and career journey of DePaul alumna Nia Hurst (’14). From an Environmental Sciences major to working as a Research Biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nia shared her story of getting involved at DePaul, gaining experience with research labs, and her current job responsibilities. In this event, she highlighted the power of networking because the connections she made  opened doors to so many opportunities.

Words of wisdom from Nia

Nia on building her network and maximizing connections:

“I think it’s really true that you have to expand your network and connect with people to let them know what you’re interested in. Expressing what your interests are to as many people as you can like your advisor and other graduate students. I would also really recommend going to events like conferences, luncheons, and other networking events.”

Nia on the primary responsibilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“When there is a regional issue that needs to be addressed (e.g., wetland development to offset phosphorus pollution, mangrove forest development to alleviate hurricane impact), we conduct longitudinal research studies on best practices for that regional development project. There are a lot of different projects. It’s applied research that you do for the sake of knowledge.”

Nia on the diversity of scientific roles available in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“I’m a research biologist, but we work with engineers, statisticians, computer specialists. There’s a lot of people to build out a team with, a lot of opportunities for a lot of different types of scientists.”

Employer Spotlight: Michael Reynolds (MPA ’21) at HealthJoy

The Health Care & Science (HCS) Career Community wants to introduce students to a wide range of careers. Students may be familiar with popular clinical roles (e.g., nurse, physician, veterinarian), but less familiar with jobs like healthcare data analytics, health administration, or biotech research.  

HealthJoy is an app that aims to improve the healthcare experience by guiding users to accessible professionals and resources. In this interview, Debbie Kaltman (HCS Employer Engagement Specialist) spoke with Michael Reynolds (MPA ‘21) to learn about his educational and career journey, his insights to students about making career changes, and his current role as a Customer Success Operations Manager.

Michael’s passions for learning as much as he can, building relationships with people, and supporting others have helped him grow in his professional goal of being a public servant. His career journey brought him to different professional industries — including theatre (fun fact: Michael has a BFA in Playwriting!), retail sales, and healthcare — and they all allowed him to explore his broader passions. As a Customer Success Operations Manager, Michael analyzes customer data and feedback to solve problems, improve their services, and help build the platform. This data-centered role is a professional pivot from Michael’s previous work in customer relations and success, but he views it as an opportunity to continue learning. Michael continues to seek experiences where he can build meaningful relationships and help others.

Michael’s advice to current students: “What you study in undergrad does not dictate what your career will look like. Taking advantage of the communities around you can be helpful. Volunteer, network… see what’s going on in the world around you, and see where your passions take you!”

Meet Mai Hong, Senior Operations Program Manager at Teladoc Health

Here at the Health Care & Science Career Community, we want to introduce students to a wide range of careers in those industries. Students may be familiar with popular clinical roles (nurse, physician, veterinarian), but not with jobs like healthcare data analytics or administration, or biotech research.  

Livongo & Teladoc Health (a recently merged company) is “transforming the healthcare experience and empowering people everywhere to live healthier lives.”  Teladoc is a leader in telehealth, or virtual healthcare, providing virtual primary health care, mental health and chronic care management (including diabetes, high blood pressure and weight loss).    

Mai Hong is Senior Operations Program Manager at Teladoc, and recently offered her advice to current students interested in careers in healthcare startups, as well as health administration & management and health data, analytics and informatics (learn more about these industries here!)

Q: Can you explain what your job is? What do you do on a daily/weekly basis?
A: I’m a Senior Operations Program Manager. On a daily basis, I work with our eligibility department to make sure that we’re enrolling members. On a weekly basis, I work cross-functionally with other teams to set up clients and figure out how to scale operations as our company grows.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job? 
A: We’re a young company so everything we do is figuring out: how are we as a company going to do this? It’s a lot of fun to create things from scratch. There are no playbooks so we can be really creative and innovative about how we approach things

Q: What do you find most challenging? 
A: We’re growing very quickly so the other part of my job is to build things out that are scalable. So what we build today that works when we have 100 members, will it work tomorrow when we have 1000 members?

Q: Looking back, what were your most meaningful experiences from undergrad/grad school? (Internships, jobs, classes, student organizations, etc) 
A: I participated in hackathons during grad school and it made me realize I love working in fast paced environments that come up with out-of-the-box solutions. It also helped me understand how to put together pitches that would appeal to stakeholders.

Q: What advice do you have for students looking to enter biotech/health tech/health startup worlds? 
A: Ask a lot of questions! Health startups move quickly so there’s a lot of value in people that can get up to speed quickly and ask critical questions. 

Interested in learning more? Check out careers at Teladoc and careers at Livongo.  Learn more about careers in health care and science here!