In celebration of National Pharmacy Week and to honor the incredible achievements and impacts pharmacy professionals make in the field of healthcare, we are sharing personal stories from some of our own pharmacy team members.
For 33-year-old Elliot Marino, the last couple of years have taught him a lot. The most significant lessons I take away from our conversation are the importance of prioritizing his own mental health and that an act of kindness can go a long way. In September 2021, Elliot Marino, CompleteRx System Clinical Manager, was diagnosed with Stage IV Rectal Cancer. “It took months for things to sink in, it’s a crazy whirlwind experience,” Marino says.
Marino’s journey to pharmacy began in high school. His interest in science led him towards a future in healthcare, but an aversion to blood discouraged him from choosing a traditional physician path. It was through a close family friend that he would eventually discover pharmacy. “I had a friend whose sisters were in pharmacy,” Marino explains.
Like most young pharmacy students, Marino didn’t know which facet he’d end up in or, even, how many options he’d have, but later found the hospital setting would be his perfect fit. After finding his work home at Upper Allegheny Health System (UAHS), Marino quickly settled in and flourished. “It’s great. It’s hard to find a rural hospital with so many different specialties and services. We get to be innovative and see a lot of different types of patients,” Marino says.
As System Clinical Manager, Marino’s role is no small feat. “He’s so important to our day to day,” says Sarah Gilroy, UAHS System Director of Pharmacy, “he does a ton of education with the staff, heads up our P&T Committee meetings. He helps keep the doors open and keeps things running!”
Prior to his diagnosis, Marino led the charge at UAHS during the COVID-19 Pandemic, even having administered the first dose of vaccine at Olean General Hospital. He’s widely known both at UAHS and CompleteRx for his work ethic and involvement. But it’s his optimism and easy-going personality that set him apart and made the news of his diagnosis so difficult for his co-workers. “He’s great to talk and chat with, people really enjoy working with him, it was so sad and shocking when we found out,“ Gilroy says.
After months of gastrointestinal discomfort, Marino, himself, became the patient. “The stomach is hard because the symptoms could really be anything. It took a while for [my doctors] to escalate things,” Marino explains. An initial scan reported Colitis, but Marino’s persistency would lead him to schedule a colonoscopy which eventually uncovered a tumor and a Stage III diagnosis. From there everything happened fast. Marino found an oncologist and they began developing a treatment plan. “We had to hurry up and start scheduling everything so fast. Chemo and radiation. I even took care of things on the fertility side,” Marino explains. Just days before his first round of radiation, Marino’s doctor suggested one more CT scan since it had been a few months in between. The results would eventually escalate his Stage III diagnosis to Stage IV. “Things changed quickly. They held off on radiation and scheduled an Ostomy surgery to have an ostomy bag placed,” Marino says.
In the weeks and months that followed his diagnosis, Marino took a step back and assessed his situation. “I got serious and took a look at what I needed,” Marino explained, “I had to be there for myself and get my head right.” Marino took a leave of absence from his duties at UAHS to focus on his physical and mental health. “The team stepped up in so many ways. Whether it was a meal, help at the hospital, an email or even just a thought about me and my family, it really helped” Marino shares. These acts of kindness brought and continue to bring strength through his fight.
After his ostomy bag placement, Marino began chemotherapy. Miraculously, the tumor responded well, and he was able to have the tumor removed. “It was amazing, I responded so well to therapy, and we were able to schedule the surgery,” Marino says.
Today, Marino is back in his role as System Clinical Manager at UAHS and shows no sign of disease. “It’s great. Things have changed, we’ve had some changes in leadership and stuff, but it’s good to be back. CompleteRx and leadership have been so great and accommodating,” Marino says. His team is happy to have him back, “picking up the slack,” and bringing a smile back to everyone’s face. “Elliot is a hockey player by background which means he knows how to take the hits and keep bouncing back. He has been through a lot of emotional and physical suffering but has continued to push forward in his recovery and never missed a beat once he came back. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Elliot, his work ethic and optimism, “ says Rick Burnet, CompleteRx Chief Operations Officer.
So, to Elliot Marino, who is truly an inspiration, and the team at UAHS that have supported him along the way, we say thank you and Happy Pharmacy Week!
by Rachel Rahm, Marketing Manager, CompleteRx