Careers: Part 2 -- From intern to supervisor in PBM

March 8, 2023

Christopher Kamei, Pharm.D., is supervisor of clinical services at CVS Caremark.

In this second profile of a three-part series, a DKICP alumnus outlines his educational and career path.

For Christopher Kamei, getting hands-on experience was an important part of choosing a career path. When entering college at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, he originally considered getting a nursing degree. Volunteering at a local hospital taught him a lot, including that the work environment was probably not what we wanted. But pharmacy seemed like a promising alternative.

Always eager to apply what he was learning, Kamei got an internship at CVS Health Longs while in pharmacy college at UH Hilo and was offered a retail pharmacy position with the company on Oahu after graduation in 2013. “I started as a staff pharmacist and did just about every job there is in the retail setting, including, eventually, district leader.”

When a clinical services position opened up at CVS Caremark last year, it seemed like a logical next step, he says. “It allowed me to still use my clinical skills but to learn more about another segment of the industry. All along my career path, CVS Health has been supportive and helped me grow, professionally.”

As a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), CVS Caremark works closely with businesses, unions and government programs across the country to ensure that when a member gets to the pharmacy counter, they get medicines they need at the lowest possible cost. “The primary roles of PBMs are to negotiate with big drug companies to save patients money; to encourage the use of generics, when possible; and to use new tools that help bring escalating drug prices under control to protect patients, deliver the lowest cost medicines and the best possible outcomes.”

Almost two years ago, Kamei took a supervisor role for the company, managing a team of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in Hawaii and on the continent. “We work with both commercial and government insurance programs, reviewing both common and specialty medications.”

His team works from home, which can present certain challenges, he says. “It makes effective communication skills really important to our day-to-day interactions, especially when you don’t have the usual in-person cues to help you. An upside is being able to work from the safety and comfort of your own home and, for some people, that’s a huge benefit.”

He says one outcome of the pandemic is that it has pushed just about all businesses and institutions to leverage their digital resources. “Personally, we’ve all had to become more technically savvy, and that’s only going to be a benefit in the future.”

See more news from 2023.