College of Arts and Sciences
Happy Detour: Arts and Sciences graduate finds award-winning career helping others live a better quality of life
Jared Palomo was on track to become a medical doctor, but instead found his niche helping patients who are experiencing chronic pain. His work is a unique partnership with doctors and patients where technology and medicine come together to provide relief. He believes that the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences thoroughly prepared him to understand the workings of the human body. Most importantly, he carried away from Anderson University lifelong lessons about putting people first and the importance of community.
Update me first on what your work is with Abbott.
I’ve been here now for about six years. Abbott Laboratories is a large medical device and laboratory company. It's a global company, separated into different divisions, one of those being neuromodulation, and that's where my focus is. I started there in early 2017 as a clinical specialist, which is basically “boots on the ground” in procedures and working with patients taking care of their devices. I started as a Clinical Specialist 1 and with time worked up to a Clinical Specialist 3—I was going to nurture that area for a while and become master of that. But to my surprise, early or late 2021, I was approached about taking on a managerial role. As of January (2022) I took on what's called a territory manager. Instead of going through the same ranking of 1,2,3, as I did with the clinical specialist route, I took on the role of Territory Manager 3. Now I manage a territory here in the Upstate, including Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson area, but it branches out to the Asheville area, and some west of Asheville. I've been doing that for about a year now.
Congratulations on your promotion!
I appreciate that. Thank you.
How did you discover Anderson University?
I think, to answer that, right off the bat, what led me in to Anderson was the community. Coming from Puerto Rico, it was never on my radar. It's not really something that you're presented with in Puerto Rico: places like Anderson University. You hear big (university) names. Anderson was full of life. You really felt like part of the community visiting Anderson University. I think what I really learned there, even just in the campus visit, was that I quickly became somebody with a name, not just another number. That was something that I experienced throughout my four years at Anderson. So, I think the community is what really drew me to Anderson University, and that was from day one.
I understand that you were originally taking kind of a pre med track in the College of Arts and Sciences.
You're absolutely right. Premed was the goal—biology major, minor in chemistry, track to medical school. I graduated with the intent to go to medical school. I did take the MCAT at one point. I was going to take it a second time, and in that kind of gap year I attended the MedEx program. I know that a lot of students from Anderson have gone through that MedEx program with Prisma (Health) post-graduation, which led me to that gap year, just focusing on that internship, focusing on studying for the MCAT, and in that kind of space in that time is when I fell into taking a job at a clinic in Greenville. I started there as a scribe, just to have a part time job while I studied for the MCAT, the entry exam for medical school. And in that job, I quickly grew.
While I was working at this job, Abbott had an opening. The physician recommended I look into it. At first, I was not interested in it because my track was medical school. But, after further thought and exploring the opportunity, I decided to try it for a couple of years and if it didn’t work out, medical school would still be an option. And here I am, almost six years later, still at it.
What are some ways you feel your Anderson University education continues to benefit you in your work?
I sound like a broken record, but it's that community. Yes, the anatomy, and the biology and the chemistry are great tools to have in this industry. Beyond that, our device is not your typical medical device where you implant, and you never work with the patient. You need to know your science behind it and also how to support the patient that has the implant.
Obviously, Anderson prepared me very well with those tools, but Anderson went beyond teaching the science, teaching the textbook. Anderson instilled the person behind those tools, and that’s where I lean into that community. Everywhere from my patient to my customers, to office staff, I try to practice that same outlook that Anderson had—these are people with a name. They're not just at the front desk. They're not just registration. Everybody matters. And so it just allows me to really be very personal and understand, stop and listen, because those things matter, and our jobs and our careers would not exist if everybody was not doing their part. And a lot of getting to the goal in corporate America is goal-oriented tasks and achievements. I like to stop, slow it down a little bit and just learn the people that are on this journey.
I'm fascinated by this opportunity that Abbott presented to you and how you pursued it. Tell me about your journey and how that progressed.
Once you enter the corporate realm, there’s a lot of tasks and checklists, and that's kind of how you build and progress. But again, I think that putting a different approach to it versus just checking off a box, actually taking time to learn these patients and the customers for who they are is really what allowed me to make the most out of this opportunity. So like I said earlier, going from a CS1 quickly moved on to a CS2, with that, on a corporate level it looks more just like a check box, but for me I just took it as more responsibility, more attention to detail, more attention to my workflow and my processes. I like to think that there was a learning curve there. There was, but that's what allowed me to be presented with this next step, which was the territory management option. It wasn't anything I thought would come this quickly. Territory managers in this space, comes with decades of customer connections and these kinds of things. But this year has been a milestone. It's been a challenge, of course, and I think that we were expected to maintain what was there. But we saw some growth, and it's been positive.
As a Territory manager, tell me about a little bit of the day today, just some of the key things that you're responsible for.
There is still part of the clinical aspect, which was what I enjoyed the most out of this position. When I was presented with the medical device opportunity, in the back of my mind, I thought, “Oh, you just show up to a hospital with the device, they implant it, you leave the hospital, and that's it.” But with our devices, it's a clinically oriented process where you work with the patient and provider to assist in the best possible outcome for the patient and their devices. You work directly with providers and discuss how to program these patients and how to get them the best therapy option. And so when I took on the Territory Manager role, that was one of my concerns—Am I going to lose that clinical part which I enjoy so much? I have not. I've been able to incorporate that still into my day to day while still adding more so the business aspect of our day-to-day. So, the contracts with hospitals—everything from the logistics behind how we work with a new account, how we set up a customer structure, how these customers are educated, working internally with our corporate offices on how to provide education. It's more of the business side of it, which is what I thought this job was when I first started as a clinical. But now I'm seeing both sides, I'm seeing the work and the effort that goes behind making or allowing Abbott to even perform a case at a hospital. There's a lot of talk behind the scenes of just the business side of the medical device structure. There is a lot of attention to detail in everything you do.
I'm sure that technology is advancing all of the time. Could you describe briefly what the medical device actually does and who it’s designed for?
In summary, it treats chronic pain for a patient. It's an implantable device that goes in the epidural space of the spine. There are leads that you can describe as small catheters with electrodes connected to a generator. This generator has a waveform therapy that is transmitted into these electrodes and basically helps moderate pain signals to the brain. It blocks the nerve signal from reaching the brain. It’s allowing the patient to have some amount of pain relief if there is no surgical option, there's nothing that can be done structurally or mechanically.
These simulators allow the patient to live a more pain free life. It might not be 100 percent. It might not be for the rest of their life because their disease may progress, and they may need surgery down the road. But the nice thing about it is there is a trial phase, so these patients are allowed to try this therapy prior to implant, and the patient is able to decide whether this is something that works or not for them. The patient usually goes between a five to seven day trial phase. They try the therapy, they come back, meet with their provider, meet with us, and then we discuss with them their results and how they're doing. They get to decide. And then they can proceed with the permanent one, or they come back and say that it didn't quite do the trick.
We're trying to recover the quality of life that these patients are having. Some of these patients are in such severe pain that they can’t do the simple tasks like sweep the floors or do their dishes. And so, it's little things like that that they are able to recover and incorporate back into their life, and it also becomes a mental healing, because these patients go from laying in bed to “Now I'm doing things. People are coming over to my house because I feel comfortable enough to host them.” It's all encompassing. It's a lot of small changes that become bigger results.
I’m sure that gives you a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, that somebody's getting helped.
Sure. And I think that stopping and having these conversations definitely highlights that, because you get lost in the day to day and move on to the next one. And with the Territory Manager role you kind of cut that clinical side in half. But it is something that makes me proud to work for a company like Abbott that invests in this kind of technology and this kind of aid to this population. It really does make you feel like you're doing something meaningful, but beyond that, being backed up by a corporation like Abbott just gives you the confidence to go out and do it.
For someone who wants to enter health care and explore the many careers out there, is there a piece of advice you would give them?
I would say that you definitely have to begin with the end in mind. I remember myself, being lost in the tests and the organic chemistry classes and being overwhelmed by those things. But you always have to keep the end in mind, what the goal is… The goal is not about you, and what you want to get out of it. It’s what you're going to be able to give it, because healthcare is more than just going out and helping people. Helping people can look very different from just being a nurse and being a physician.
There's a bigger reason as to why we're going into healthcare. A very common answer is “I'm here to help people.” But what does that really mean? A lot of times it's going to mean putting your needs aside for others. And so I think, beginning with the end in mind, because that's often how you can overcome your owners obstacles.
The other thing is to lean in on resources, because if you lean on your own understanding, you're going to go downhill. Don’t get beat down if your first option doesn’t work out. There is a bigger plan in place that you’re not aware of.
We’ve also talked before about your brother who has done language interpretation in healthcare. That brings to mind another of many job opportunities within healthcare.
That in itself is another route to take in healthcare. There are so many avenues, and I think that we’re not presented early on with those avenues. It either happens by a serendipitous moment like mine or just by networking.
I understand that you are also into photography.
I am. Photography is one of my outlets. That would be my other advice—have a creative outlet. I’ve been doing photography now for over a decade. In my gap year, the way I met this physician I ended up working with was while I was shooting a wedding. Before all this I was doing photography; that was my side hustle. A creative outlet keeps the mind young and sharp.