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Dimitrios Savva – Pediatric Pharmacist

Dimitrios Savva
What makes your career path unique?

One thing that makes my career path unique is the fact that I completed two years of post-graduate residency training in pediatrics.

From the very beginning of my pharmacy school career, I knew I wanted to specialize in pediatrics. So, when it came to apply for my first-year post-graduate residency, I applied to stand-alone children’s hospitals that offered this type of first-year training. I was very fortunate to match and complete my first year at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

When deciding on a second residency year, I knew I still wanted to pursue pediatrics, but I also wanted a heavier focus on academia or affiliation with a school of pharmacy. Ultimately, I was fortunate to complete my second year of training at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Many people asked me why I completed two years of pediatrics training instead of one. To me, pediatrics is extremely different than working with adults. That said, many people complete two years of adult medicine in residency training. So, the same specialized training shouldn’t be limited when completing residency training in pediatric medicine.

These two focused years make my career path unique. This is mainly because I had the opportunity to work in two different practice settings—both a stand-alone children’s hospital and a children’s hospital within a larger academic hospital system.

Another way my career path is unique is because I set a goal for myself to leave New York for pharmacy residency, and to return to New York to implement the things I’d learned from other places. I’m proud to have accomplished this.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My primary role at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital is Clinical Pharmacy Manager/Specialist in our Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital is a Level 4, 60-bed neonatal ICU (NICU). Additionally, we have a separate 10-bed NICU step down and a 19-bed Neonatal/Infant Cardiac ICU.

My typical workday starts with patient care responsibilities—specifically rounding with my interdisciplinary team, which includes medical residents, primary nurses, NICU nurse practitioners (NP), physicians, NICU fellows, and dietitians. When we round in the neonatal/infant cardiac ICU, our team is primarily NICU NPs, primary nurses, cardiac surgery NPs, NICU and cardiology fellows, a neonatologist, a cardiologist, and a dietitian. Rounds usually take up most of the morning.

Even when rounds are finished, my work isn’t done. My clinical role is an all-day responsibility, whether it’s with patient-specific items that I have to monitor/follow-up on or medical questions from the either my team or staff throughout the day.

In addition to my clinical responsibilities, I also have administrative responsibilities. I often attend departmental meetings, unit specific meetings, or committee meetings for the committees that I am a part of.

When I have a pharmacy student or pharmacy resident on service with me, my afternoons also include doing topic discussions and patient discussions as we prepare for what the next day could bring.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

Many people ask me, “How do you handle seeing sick children?” or “Wow, babies scare me…how do you do it?”

What gets me through my job each day, is the passion that I have for helping to make my patients better. No matter how old the patient is, seeing a child being discharged from the hospital makes my job worth it.

The most rewarding days for me are the days when I get to see a child, who was once an extremely critical premature neonate, grow up to function like a normal baby. Or, the days when I get to see parents in tears of happiness because they’ve seen their child get better.

Children are the strongest and most resilient patients—they push me as a practitioner to be the best every day.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

When working in the medical field, there are always sad endings that must be faced. These usually make for the most challenging days.

Specifically, one of my most memorable challenging days was when I had five pediatric and neonatal codes back-to-back. It was a Friday in December, and it was a very rough and demanding afternoon because of the number of patients that were crashing and needed immediate attention.

My final code of the day was a one-month old girl who was decompensating badly. I ran to the crash cart to ask how many doses of epinephrine were given and how many more were needed. But the medical team had already called it—they decided to stop further intervention of resuscitation. As you can probably imagine, the room filled with cries of sadness and pain from the patient’s family.

As I walked away to allow for the family to have their time alone with the child, I looked to my side and saw the primary nurse of the patient break down in tears. That’s when it hit me. I walked out of the unit in hysterics.

Thankfully, my colleagues were there to talk me through this tough time. They reminded me that I did the best I could do, and that I was able to help save several lives throughout the rest of the afternoon.

I remember this challenging day often because it is a memory that reminds me to cherish the good, to work as hard as I possibly can, and to appreciate the positive that we, as pharmacists, do for our patients each day.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field—specifically, in pediatrics. At first, I wanted to be a pediatrician. This didn’t last long, though. When I told my pediatrician this, he had me watch as a baby got their vaccinations. I remember leaving the room right away because I couldn’t handle watching the child cry.

After deciding not to pursue becoming a pediatrician, I decided that pharmacy was another viable career option. Pharmacy was very attractive to me because I knew it would be possible for me to positive impact a hospital community and the greater local community.

As pharmacists, we are key components in the foundation that defines patient care. We are the experts on pharmacotherapy and the problem solvers at times when there seems to be lack of knowledge and answers.

When I found out that I could specialize even further in pediatric pharmacy, it made my choice of pharmacy even clearer. As a pharmacist who specializes in pediatrics, it is my job to combine my specialty knowledge with the literature that exists and apply this combined knowledge to a unique population—children.

I love my career because it provides me with the opportunity to learn, teach, and positive impact the world every day.

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

Early in my career, I was lucky enough to shadow a pharmacist that owned their own independent pharmacy. I took on this experience with the goal of seeing what it was like to be a pharmacist involved in direct patient care. One day of shadowing turned into six years of working for this pharmacist and learning the aspects of pharmacy outside of the classroom.

My APPE rotations also provided me with some great experience in hospital pharmacy practice. It was this extra layer of learning that made me strive to go into the route of pharmacy residency.

Then, after completing pharmacy school, I choose to complete two years of post-graduate training experiences in multiple hospital settings.

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

I’d advise them that it’s very important to be a well-rounded student. Grades are extremely important. But, being fully involved in all aspects of pharmacy school is also important. It will help students to discover what their real interests are and their place in the profession.

I’d also recommend that they take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way during pharmacy school. Anything that they do that is above the normal status quo of being a student is only going to benefiting them in the future.

Through different organizations, honor societies, leadership roles, community service events, and networking, students will learn the multi-layered foundation that pharmacy encompasses in all its aspects. In addition, it allows you to more fully appreciate the didactic roller-coaster that pharmacy school can be.