Bernadette Alicea

Department: Smilow Cancer Center

Position: Medical Assistant

Years at Yale: 4

I’ve been in the medical field for over 20 years. I love connecting with patients and supporting them when they are nervous. I remember when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and how scared the diagnosis made me. The people in the hospital and my family gave me the support I needed return to work two weeks after surgery. I’m a survivor and I want to give patients the same support and comfort that helped me recover and get back to work.

I love my job, I’m proud to support my patients, and I’m also proud that my union make sure my work is valued. During the pandemic, I met a young man who was an essential worker. His boss showed appreciation for working during the pandemic by giving him a t-shirt. Because of our union, I and my co-workers received was hazard pay for working in during the pandemic. We were all called heroes, but my union fought to make sure our heroic work was valued appropriately.

Today I’m training to become a steward so I can support my fellow workers. When I was first asked to do the training, I was reluctant. I didn’t want to be responsible when someone was facing a serious challenge like losing their job. But leaders like Lisa Stevens taught me that I always have backup. If I feel like I don’t have the right words or information, I can have someone out there to back me up if I stumble. In this union we get each other’s backs. That means together we win good contracts, and it also means that as individuals we can take risks and do things that feel challenging since we can count on each other’s support.