This time last year, Stefanie Salandanan, a Blue Shield of California group sales assistant, was giving her all to delivering top notch health care. Given her job at Blue Shield, you might think that makes a lot of sense. But you might be surprised to learn that Salandanan was providing compassionate health care in a medical clinic half a world away in Kuwait, as part of her “other job” as a combat medic with the Army Reserve.
“I joined the Army in my early 20s as part of a long-standing ideal to serve my country,” Salandanan said. “It really has been an amazing experience so far, and I’m grateful that I get the chance to continue that work while also continuing my career with Blue Shield.”
She credited supervisors and her teams in both the Army and the Blue Shield office in San Diego for helping to ease the transitions back and forth between her two roles.
“I noticed right away when I started working at Blue Shield that my managers and coworkers always had my back and worked hard to make sure I succeeded, just like the Army,” Salandanan said. “It’s comforting to know I am supported no matter where I am working. It allows me to feel comfortable when I need to jump from one job to the other.”
Blue Shield is military friendly
There are hundreds of Blue Shield employees with military backgrounds, including several – like Salandanan - who are still active in the armed forces and who receive deployment missions every year. Many of these employees are members of Blue Shield’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) Operation VET. The company was recently recognized as a military friendly place to work by MilitaryFriendly.Com
“Supporting veterans and active military members is part of our commitment to making Blue Shield an inclusive, great place to do meaningful work,” said Mary O’Hara, chief human resources officer and senior vice president of Internal Communications for Blue Shield. “Our mission demands we hire the best and brightest who dedicate themselves to a higher cause in order to make healthcare worthy of our family and friends. Our veterans and military members are not only emblematic of our leadership model but also this commitment. I’m so grateful to work alongside people who make such a meaningful commitment and difference every single day.”
For Salandanan, her dream took her, most recently, to Kuwait to serve as a NCOIC – noncommissioned officer in charge – at a specialty care clinic during what turned out to be an extra-long deployment, April 2019 to March 2020.
“We were tasked with providing medical support to servicemembers in hot zones like Afghanistan and Iraq,” Salandanan said. “Another medic and I were also selected to push forward into a hostile environment on a separate mission for patient evaluation and transportation. As a unit, we treated approximately 93,000 patients during our deployment.”
Wearing multiple hats
When Salandanan’s tour ended last spring, she returned stateside at nearly the same time that COVID-19 was emerging as an international health threat. By summer, she was back at work at Blue Shield with the small group sales department and communicating with members and clients.
Asked about the differences between her two careers, Salandanan says it all boils down to experience: “I’ve been in the Army long enough to have advanced to the rank of sergeant, where I am now mentoring young recruits, which is very rewarding. At Blue Shield, I’m continuing to build my career and really aspire to grow into a role where I’ll also be mentoring new employee recruits.”
Salandanan learned just days ago that she was chosen to participate in an Army-wide program to attract and recruit women leaders. “From what I know, it’s pretty intensive and one of the few instances where females get to train and work alongside U.S. Special Forces,” she says. After this deployment, she plans return to Blue Shield to help customers during our busiest time of year, open enrollment season.
If you’re a go-getter like Salandanan, and wish to be part of something special at Blue Shield of California, check out our Careers Page.