HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maria Louisa Almasy is the medical receptionist for Hawaii University Surgeons, whose doctors are affiliated with the University of Hawaii. Answering phones, above, is one of her assignments.
Working on a new career
Maria Louisa Almasy is studying to be a nurse while working as a medical receptionist
Maria Louisa Almasy is a "people person," she says, which makes her particularly effective as a medical receptionist for Hawaii University Surgeons. That's because she communicates with patients in ways that help them feel comfortable about dealing with the doctors in the practice, which is affiliated through a nonprofit corporation with the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Maria Louisa Almasy
Title: Medical receptionist
Job: Handles front desk and office duties for a medical practice
Almasy joined the practice at the front desk barely a year ago, after deciding to switch careers from retailing, in which she had worked for companies such as HomeWorld
and -- in the Philippines, where she was born and raised -- the upscale Linea Italia Group
Almasy ended up living in America after marrying research analyst Scott Almasy, whom she met while visiting in Los Angeles. They lived in San Diego for awhile, then three years ago moved to Hawaii, where Scott had been offered a job.
Almasy's career goal now is to become a nurse, which besides dealing with its patients is another reason she enjoys working for Hawaii University Surgeons.
"It's a great stepping stone to learn about the medical system, including exposure to medical terminologies," Almasy said last week.
The former Maria Louisa Ramos, one of five sisters, was raised by her mother, Felicidad Britanico, in the small town of Bulan, Sorsogon. She is a graduate of St. Louise de Marillac high school, and also attended Adamson University in Manila, where she studied computer science. While working for Liena Italia Group, she was sent to Italy for training in visual merchandising and management. Almasy is 35 and lives with her husband near Punchbowl crater.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Almasy on Friday listened during a meeting with medical assistant Arlene Alamani, center, and Dr. Frederick Yost, a surgeon with the practice.
How long have you been working as a medical receptionist?
Louisa Almasy: I started in February, so it's been almost 10 months. I can't believe time flies so fast.
Q: What kind of background did you have to have to get the job?
A: Well, you can be a medical receptionist as long as you are willing to work at the front desk and do some clerical jobs and are fine with meeting people.
My previous job really had nothing to do with the front desk, but I was able to convince my interviewer at Hawaii University Surgeons that I am willing to new learn new things, and I told my interviewer that meeting new people is one of the best ways to learn new things. So I guess that's how I was able to get the job.
Q: What was your previous job?
A: I was a visual manager for Home World Furniture Store Before that I was working with Macy's. I worked for Macy's in San Diego for two years. When my husband and I moved here, I had to apply again for the position because the Ala Moana Macy's store was so much larger. And, fortunately, I got it.
Before I came to America, I used to work in high-end retailing, for Linea Italia Group, for nine years. They carried Versace, Max Mara and Dolce Gabbana. Those are like really famous Italian brands. They sent me to Italy for training, for management. My expertise actually is with visual merchandising.
Q: And where was this?
A: That was in the Philippines. And I did that for nine years. When I left, they had 22 stores.
Q: Why the career change?
A: It's because I thought I want to do something different, because I had been in retail for almost 15 years. I thought maybe I would like to get into the medical field and maybe one day be a nurse, and maybe give back.
My mom-in-law (Ruthie Treadup) is also a nurse, and when I see her and how she tells me stories, she feels good about how she's able to help people, and I thought that was a nice thing, you know?
Q: Are the doctors you work for associated with the University of Hawaii?
A: Yes. But they call their group the Hawaii University Surgeons.
Q: So they are teachers, too?
A: They also teach, yeah.
Q: What are some of your daily duties at the office?
A: My main duty is, of course, taking phone calls and working at the front desk. I try to obtain accurate and current information from the patients during registrations and make sure that all forms are signed; I prepare the patients' charts; I verify insurance eligibility and obtain referrals when necessary. You know how it is for some insurance plans -- sometimes patients need referrals before they can see another doctor.
And then I get the opportunity to sort and open mail (laughter), which is fine; I call patients and remind them of their next-day appointment; I do data entry; I do filing, of course; and I do other clerical tasks that my manager would like me to do.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maria Louisa Almasy joined Hawaii University Surgeons as its medical receptionist almost a year ago after more than a decade in retailing. At the medical practice, Almasy answers the phone, opens the mail, interacts with the patients, and handles other duties as well.
Who is your manager?
A: My manager is Clarissa Benedicto.
Q: Do you have to take many phone calls during the day?
A: I get tons of phone calls. One time, when I was new, I recorded like 80-plus. Sometimes callers are nice, sometimes they're not. But I guess that's what makes my job fun: variety.
Q: What do people typically call you about?
A: First of all, they call about their appointments. Or they have a problem with some medication, or surgical problems, because this is a specialty clinic, you know. Our doctors are surgeons, so most of our patients, they want to follow up. Sometimes patients are given instructions, but sometimes they forget, so they want follow-up.
Q: How many patients would you say you have to help check in each day?
A: We have around 10 or 15 a day. That's just one side of it. On the other side of it, it can come to 10. It averages around 15, I would say.
Q: What do you mean "the other side of it"?
A: In this clinic we have the Hawaii University Surgeons, which has eight doctors, and on the other side, we sublease to Cardiothoracic Associates of Hawaii. And then I have one independent doctor.
Q: What kinds of surgical procedures do the doctors you work for typically perform?
A: Well my surgeons are what they call general surgeons, and four of them are like trauma surgeons. They also are affiliated with Queen's Hospital. And I have one oncologist, who deals with only patients with cancers; that is our director, Dr. Dan Takanishi.
Q: Would you ever like to be a doctor?
A: Well, I would love to, but you know, this Dr. Takanishi is so nice. Every time he comes here he has a smile on his face. I told him I wanted to be a nurse, and he said, "Why don't you become a doctor?" But I thought, "Hmm, how old am I now -- 35?" By the time I became doctor, I'd only have two years or so to practice.
Q: So you decided to go for the nursing.
A: I think that would be easier, considering my age. Is easier the right term? More practical? At least I get to do some work right away.
Q: What are you doing to become a nurse?
A: I'm taking online classes, so I don't have to interrupt my job. I also volunteer at Queen's on Sundays, at the ER (emergency room).
Q: How long will it take you to become a nurse?
A: I'm still taking my general education, so hopefully I'll get to the point where I won't be too old to start in the nursing program.
But as far as being a medical receptionist goes, I think just giving patients a big smile and calling them by name really means a lot. They'll give you a smile and they feel good about it. I think as a medical receptionist, you can make patients feel comfortable.
Some patients, just like me, I don't feel comfortable going to the doctor, even if it's just a clinic.
And I believe, with this job, I'm building up a wonderful experience that I can always take with me wherever I go.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
A: Just meeting people. One of the best things in life is when you meet people, and working at the front desk gives me the opportunity to see new faces almost every day, from different walks of life.
I was just contemplating how lucky I am to be in this field. I'm a people person, and when I talk to people, I look at them in their eyes, and I see life, I see history, especially in older people. So this is an opportunity to learn different things and be exposed to the reality of life.