When Valci Carvalho was a teenager, newly moved to Martha’s Vineyard from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he took a job at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Still a student at the regional high school, the kitchen gig was a way to help out his family financially, caught like so many others in the “Vineyard housing shuffle.”

Now, nearly 20 years later, he’s running his own department at the Island hospital. Mr. Carvalho, 36, was promoted to director of pharmacy in May, taking over the position from his mentor David Caron.

Looking back on his journey, from a 14-year-old immigrant who struggled to fit in to a leader at the hospital, he’s focused on making a difference.

“I’m here and I’m part of the community,” Mr. Carvalho said in a recent interview. “I work as part of the community and my work will hopefully be reflected in the betterment of that community.”

Vacli Carvalho was promoted to the pharmacy director at Martha's Vineyard Hospital in May. — Jeanna Shepard

When Mr. Carvalho first moved to the Island as a teen, following his father who was a pastor on the Island, it was November. Getting off the boat in a cold New England town was a far cry from Brazil. The bustle of Rio was thousands of miles away, and the deserted main streets of the Vineyard in the off-season were unnerving.

He described the initial move as “terrible.”

“I’d say that my first year was probably the toughest,” he said, then corrected himself. “My first two years.”

When he was 16, he started working at the hospital and, at the urging of a high school chemistry teacher, looked into the world of pharmacy. There he met Mr. Caron, who now works as the vice president of diagnostic and therapeutic services.

Mr. Caron said Mr. Carvalho had a knack for leadership and initiative. The teenager took it upon himself to talk to the pharmacist and eventually shadowed him to get a sense of the job. The interaction would set the course for his career, as well as serve as a template for a program pioneered by Mr. Caron, where he introduces some of the less-stereotypical hospital jobs to Islanders.

“One could say it all started with Valci,” Mr. Caron said. “We just have to let people who have roots in this community know they can be incredibly successful by pursuing one of these health care opportunities.”

After high school, Mr. Carvalho attended the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, earning a Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellow award in 2007 to help pay the tuition.

After graduating he returned to the Island and his family. He began working at Conroy Apothecary in West Tisbury before returning to the hospital part-time as a staff pharmacist, eventually becoming a full-time employee there.

Mr. Carvalho now lives just a couple of minutes from the hospital, with his wife and two daughters. As much as he would have liked to grow up in a more tropical environment, he has grown to love Island life.

“It’s been a journey,” he said with a laugh. “It’s been a long time, it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.”

When Mr. Caron was promoted to his new role, Mr. Carvalho was hesitant at first to take the next step in his own career. But he eventually agreed and has been serving as pharmacy director for the last few months.

The job includes a variety of facets, including day to day management of the pharmacy, scheduling and staffing, clinical components and keeping the department on board with state and federal regulations.

Mr. Caron said that Mr. Carvalho has also kept the hospital up to date on advancing technology, making care better for patients and the workload easier on hospital staff.

“You’ve got to continue to be on the cutting edge,” Mr. Caron said. “This profession is always changing and if there’s something out there that needs to be addressed or evaluated, Valci brings it to the table.”

One recent change was the installation of a new pharmacy carousel, where many of the drugs needed to fill prescriptions are stored. On the outside, the storage space — numerous blue bins — doesn’t appear that special.

But appearances can be deceiving.

Mr. Carvalho said the new system has freed up valuable real estate in the department, and it informs workers when certain drugs are running low, automatically triggering new orders. The automation frees up staff to better help patients, he said.

“That is a piece of technology you won’t find in many hospitals, especially in a hospital our size,” Mr. Carvalho said.

Mr. Carvalho has also returned to the halls of the regional high school, introducing careers such as his to the next generation. During a visit in March, he told students that it can be a rewarding career, and he looks to be a mentor to others, as many Islanders have been for him.

“Whatever I have been able to achieve, it would never be possible if people didn’t go out of their way to help me, to provide me the opportunities,” he said. “I can never be thankful enough for that, for the people. I think that that’s what kind of makes Martha’s Vineyard special.”