Kalicicki featured in Carolina People series

Abi Kalicicki is a Human Services Program Technician at Wakebrook Primary Care. She was featured in this week's edition of Carolina People.

Kalicicki featured in Carolina People series click to enlarge Abi Kalicicki

This interview originally appeared in The University Gazette.

What’s a typical day like in your job?

WakeBrook is an integrated primary care office, a service of the School of Medicine’s psychiatry department.  The office provides physical health care for people with serious mental illness in close collaboration with their behavioral health teams. When patients come to our office, I meet with them to help them implement goals they set with their medical provider. I also regularly visit patients in the community to work on nutrition, exercise, diabetes management and smoking cessation. 

How does your work and support Carolina’s mission?

By using my expertise as a peer support specialist, I am able to teach our patients important life skills. I work with patients individually and in groups to help them achieve their full health and wellness goals. 

What do you like most about your work?

I love when patients reach goals they set for themselves. They have an “aha” moment and become more confident and then want to set more goals. Many of our patients have reached their goals to lose weight, lower their blood sugar levels and quit smoking. Peer support specialists help patients achieve their goals by working with them one-on-one in their environment, at their own pace, and I enjoy being part of that.

What is something surprising about you or your work?

I think people would be surprised at the amount of success we have with patients. We have had so many patients cut back or even quit smoking entirely. A lot of our patients haven’t even been asked if they wanted to quit smoking before they come to us, because a lot of people assume that it is just a coping mechanism for their mental illness. We teach other coping skills and help them quit smoking using a behavioral approach, rather than just giving them medication or a nicotine patch.

How did you come to work in this position?

I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I’ve worked in the mental health field for most of my career. I became a peer support specialist four years ago so that I could share my own life experience to help others. The position I’m in now appealed to me because of the integrated care model and it allows me to use my own experience. It’s a really great fit for me. 

Carolina People is a regular feature in each issue of the Gazette that asks one of your fascinating colleagues five questions about the work they do for the University. Do you know someone with an interesting or unique job at Carolina? Please email your suggestions to gazette@unc.edu and put Carolina People in the subject line.