2020 Avey Award Recipient David Calabrese Reflects on Career, Managed Care Pharmacy
The 2020 Steven G. Avey Award recipient, David Calabrese, RPh, MHP, describes his reaction to receiving the field's highest honor in this interview with AMCP Foundation. Mr. Calabrese is the senior vice president and chief pharmacy officer at OptumRx.
What is your reaction to receiving this award?
As I've stated to so many folks who have been kind enough to reach out and extend their congratulations, I would describe my reaction to this award as incredibly surprised, humbled, and honored. Having worked now within our managed care pharmacy profession for my entire 30+ year career, it is so satisfying and heartwarming to know that the time, dedication, and commitment that I have put forth in trying to drive quality and advance the merits of our profession is being recognized in this way. It is that much more rewarding knowing the remarkable group of managed care pharmacy leaders whose voting enabled me to achieve this award, many of whom I've looked up to, learned from, and been lucky enough to befriend throughout my career. One of my close colleagues and friends at Optum described the Avey Award as the "Green Jacket" of managed care pharmacy, and that's how personally this recognition feels to me right now. I honestly could not be more thrilled to accept this.
The Avey Award involves the moral obligation to closely and openly collaborate with those around us, and to make others better by openly communicating and mentoring, but at the same time, always being willing to be mentored.
What are the qualities that you think embody this award?
Having the good fortune of knowing Steve Avey personally and working beside him for a short period of time, I don't think that you can find a more appropriate individual for whom this award could be dedicated. To me it embodies all of the key characteristics that Steve himself has emulated throughout his career and in his life. These are the things that have helped him to contribute so much toward the betterment of our profession and raising its profile within our health care industry. It represents never being satisfied with the status quo and exhibiting an unwavering level of determination to always challenge oneself, and the system we operate within, to innovate and drive our managed care pharmacy mission and values.
It involves a moral obligation to closely and openly collaborate with those around us, and to make others better by openly communicating and mentoring, but at the same time, always being willing to be mentored. It represents a strong work ethic, a strong sense of personal accountability, and a passion to compete and to win. Lastly, more than anything else, what this award embodies is something that most distinguishes Steve as well as so many of those who were bestowed this same honor before me, and that's the ability to overcome challenges and lead with both confidence and a genuine sense of humility. It's about never forgetting where we come from; being honest about our own shortcomings; and treating everyone with the level of dignity and respect they deserve.
What advice can you give young managed care pharmacy professionals about striving for excellence?
The best advice that I can give to a young managed care pharmacy professional about achieving success in their careers is to learn early on the art of "self-reflection," and to do everything possible maintain a positive outlook in all you do. As I tell students and young members of my own team, it's important to recognize that there are about 110 waking hours during the average week, and of those, you will likely spend >60% of them at work. Thus, you will spend more time with your coworkers than you will your own loved ones. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to recognize that people want to work with, work for, and elevate those whom they can trust, confide in and have fun working beside.
Learn to interact well and collaborate with all. Embrace diversity. Get to know your coworkers and clients for the individuals they really are and what motivates and excites them. A very bright and well-recognized leader in our healthcare industry is once quoted as saying, "success comes to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue". This has always been something that I have taken to heart and would encourage my young managed care pharmacy colleagues to do the same.
Originally published in the June 2020 AMCP Foundation Insights e-newsletter.