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Cherry Jackson – Psychiatric Pharmacist

Cherry Jackson
What makes your career path unique?

When I originally graduated with my PharmD, I was interested in completing a critical care residency. But, when faced with opportunity to obtain a residency of this kind in another city, my then fiancé and I decided to remain local.

So, I started my search for a residency that suited our needs. That’s when the director of the psychiatric residency program asked if I would be interested in completing his residency since the position had not filled that year. I accepted the residency and haven’t regretted it a single time!

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including acute care psychiatry, adults, pediatrics, geriatrics, and Alzheimer’s units. I’ve also worked in substance use disorder, childhood disorder, developmental disability, severe mental illness, eating disorders, and personality disorder units.

In addition to my varied history of work settings, I’ve also served in several different positions, including as a pharmacy director, a clinical coordinator, a residency director, a department chair, a dean, a researcher, a faculty member, and—most recently—an ambulatory care pharmacist in psychiatry.

I’m lucky to have had so many different opportunities throughout my career. I think that’s what makes my career path so unique!

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Currently, I work as a faculty member in both a pharmacy school and a medical school. Additionally, I work as a clinical specialist in a psychiatry ambulatory care clinic.

Typically, my students and I spend our morning at the clinic. During this time, we see about 15-20 patients, and collaborate with the attending physician and residents to make medication decisions. We also do a great deal of medication counseling, make recommendations for primary care and self-care, and work on quality assurance issues.

In the afternoon, the students and I discuss relevant topics and issues, go over patient cases, and review and questions they have. My students always have a variety of projects to work on, so they usually spend time completing those while I catch up on any end-of-day tasks.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding days in my career are the days when a patient returns to tell me that I’ve helped to make an improvement on their life. It’s a great feeling to know that a specific action I’ve taken has impacted them so positively, especially when my actions have prevented a life-threatening problem.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day of my career so far occurred when I returned from a vacation. When I returned, there were more than twenty voicemails from patients on my office phone.

Before going out of town, I made sure to set up follow-up care, notify them of my upcoming absence, and created a voicemail greeting explaining what a patient should do if they need me while I’m away. Despite all this effort, many patients circumvented the previously-established processes and left voice messages anyway.

This was frustrating, and it caused me to feel very guilty about taking time off—even though I did everything I could to create a backup plan.

In the end, this challenge was a learning experience for me. It taught me that, sometimes, patients feel like they need you more when they don’t have direct access to you.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

A career in pharmacy was attractive for me because I knew it would give me the opportunity to provide patient care, but it wouldn’t require that I attend medical or nursing school. I was also very interested in learning how medications work to treat illness and how to individualize treatments for patients.

What steps did you take to enter into this career path?

In order to pursue a career in pharmacy, I first completed a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Then, I completed a second bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. And, finally, obtained my doctorate in pharmacy.

After my schooling, I completed a specialty residency in psychiatry. This post-graduate experience opened a lot of doors for me, especially in academia. Because of my specialized training, I had my choice of programs to work in.

What advice would you give to a student entering pharmacy school?

My advice for students entering pharmacy school would be to stay motivated. It important that they say yes to as many opportunities as they comfortably can. If they stretch themselves, they will create lots of opportunities that they may not have originally expected!

Additionally, I’d also recommend that they obtain some leadership experience by getting involved in organizations and working hard. Leadership experience will open doors for them!