When people think of sociology, they probably don’t associate it with pharmaceutical work. But Andrea Jarquin has found a way to turn her Florida Gulf Coast University sociology degree into a meaningful career in pharmacology.
Jarquin, 27, a 2017 graduate who double majored in sociology and communication, works as a bilingual patient support specialist with Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Massachusetts. She lives in Boston but remains active with FGCU through the Multicultural Alumni Network. That continued involvement reflects the passion for inclusion and education that Jarquin says motivates her.
As a professional, Jarquin assists Vertex patients who have cystic fibrosis – an inherited disorder that causes severe lung damage – deal with pharmacy and insurance issues and provides them with product education.
Before making this leap, Jarquin didn’t even envision herself going to college. That was until an encounter she had while touring FGCU that convinced her it was where she belonged.
“When I applied to FGCU to be an orientation leader, I met Tabitha Dawes,” Jarquin said. “She has been an incredible mentor to me, still to this day, and I don’t say this lightly, but I believe she saved my life because she changed the trajectory of it.”
Dawes, director of Eagle View Orientation, notices the impact Jarquin has on others.
“She was dedicated and hard-working in everything she did,” Dawes said. “Most of all, she shined as an advocate, whether it was mentoring first-year students in orientation, working on a project in a sociology class, or supporting students in her RA (resident assistant) position. Andrea has a heart for others and ensuring they are supported and treated equitably.”
Jarquin and Dawes stay in touch to this day.
“Serving as a mentor during Andrea’s time at FGCU was truly an honor. I was and am so proud of what she accomplished,” Dawes said.
Jarquin believes FGCU prepared her well for the workplace – specifically, for a career that involves getting to know the patients she serves and requires insight into what they are experiencing.
“The communication and sociology faculty at FGCU are some of the most passionate across the university,” she said. “When it comes to my communication degree, I can tactfully communicate and still have that rapport of getting to know them (the patients). The research I’ve done in sociology makes me passionate about the qualitative stories that folks have to share.”
After graduating, she helped establish the Multicultural Alumni Network (MCAN) in 2020. The network is composed of 12 chairs who bring expertise in membership, programming, fundraising, events and more. MCAN strives to help FGCU alumni of color stay engaged and connects them to resources offered through the university and alumni community.
“I think FGCU is an incredible institution and unique in many ways,” Jarquin said. “It sits at a crossroads of really privileged populations and first-generation and low-income students. When students from very different backgrounds come into one space, you can see the disparities in lived experiences.
“It’s important that they do feel like they belong, even after they graduate. I thought something was missing here, and the Multicultural Alumni Network was able to fill that gap,” Jarquin said. “Now, folks can celebrate their successes with a group of students and alumni who relate with each other.”
Her passion for postgraduate inclusion isn’t lost on her alma mater.
“Andrea’s strength, compassion and leadership led to the cultivation of the Multicultural Alumni Network,” said Caroline Vives-Vietri, assistant director of Alumni Relations. “MCAN reinforces FGCU’s core values that diversity, equity and inclusion are central to our commitment to excellence.”
Jarquin has carried that inclusive mentality into her job at Vertex as she has been part of a diversity-and-inclusion team in her department for two years. This initiative is geared to enlighten her colleagues on social-identity development, psychological safety and how language barriers have impacted the Spanish-speaking community.
The Miami native started her transition to pharmaceuticals by earning her master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University. It didn’t take long for her to find her first pharmaceutical job, as Vertex hired her soon after she received her master’s. The position’s reliance on education – and Jarquin’s love for educating others – led her to take the job.
“I have a love for helping people feel empowered and educated about the decisions that they make,” Jarquin said. “This job had a huge education component, so when I transitioned, it was pretty much being adaptable and learning about insurance and specialty pharmacies.”
As a bilingual employee, Jarquin takes pride in communicating with Spanish-speaking patients. Her family emigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua, and she grew up with Spanish as her first language. During most of her childhood, Jarquin was her parents’ translator. This experience is why she believes she shares a personal connection with Spanish-speaking patients.
“When I talk to families who do not know what cystic fibrosis is, I’m that first person introducing them to this world and community,” Jarquin said. “I have a certain attachment to this population because I’ve been impacted myself, and my parents have been impacted due to lack of access, lack of resources and lack of education.”
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