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Pharmacist Bios

When it comes to pursuing a career in pharmacy, there are several specialties to choose from.

The following pharmacist profiles showcase real world pharmacists, their unique career pathways, and their advice for pharmacy students like you! Click a pharmacist’s name to read their story.

What makes your career path unique?

For my career, I chose a path that focuses more on the development of people and processes in order to take care of patients than on taking care of patients directly.

In management and leadership, I have the opportunity to make large scale changes to allow clinicians to make the most out of their skill set, and the ability to set a vision for what care may look like in the future. This makes my job unique.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

No two days are the same in my position, and I enjoy that.

A typical day for me may consist of a strategic planning meeting in which I discuss the five-year plan for our pharmacy, or it may consist of coaching an employee on an interaction they had that could have been better.

Likewise, I may spend part of my day analyzing a budget and any variances related to that budget, or making critical, in the moment, decisions about how to handle an expensive medication that patients need.

My day is always filled with decisions to be made, tasks to delegate, and people to develop.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

There are a lot of things that I’ve learned and I have a lot to be thankful for in my career. Up to this point, the most rewarding day was when we opened the doors to our new specialty and home infusion pharmacy.

We opened the facility on a Monday and my daughter was born that Friday, so the timing couldn’t have worked out better! I’ll never forget that.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

Our profession offers a lot of frustrations, no doubt. That said, the most challenging day of my career thus far was in my first job.

I had been in my role for about a year, and my manager, who had recruited me, was let go. I wasn’t sure how to handle it and, as a young manager, felt a little lost. It certainly made me think about my career and my future.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was attracted to pharmacy because I enjoyed the business and patient interaction standpoint.

Pharmacists have the unique ability to provide care to patients without sending them a bill, yet our profession has struggled to remain relevant because of such a luxury. Other professions are less connected to the business aspect and rarely meet a patient outside of a scheduled visit.

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

After pharmacy school I began a Health System Pharmacy Administration residency (HSPA-PGY2) to pursue my specific career path. I eventually fell into specialty and home infusion pharmacy leadership and I truly enjoy that today.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school would be relatively simple:

  1. Read, read, read—and don’t stop!
  2. Build relationships by getting involved in professional organizations.
  3. Knowledge is valuable, but character is priceless, learn to fail and be better because of it.

Doing these three things during your time in pharmacy school (and throughout your career) will put students on the right path.

Joel Marrs
What makes your career path unique?

My career path to becoming an ambulatory cardiology pharmacist and faculty member is unique because it required multiple years of residency training. During this training, I practiced in both the inpatient hospital setting and in various ambulatory/outpatient clinics.

My path to specialize in cardiology has been developed over the last fifteen years and covers time at two different universities, as well as both inpatient and outpatient clinical practices. This wide exposure to varied practice settings makes me a well-rounded practitioner.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I am in clinic every other week. During each of these weeks, there are 40 patient visits for chronic cardiovascular/endocrine disease states spread out over multiple days.

During the first half of a typical day, I might see up to 11 patients who suffer from diseases like hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, etc.. During these morning visits, I independently meet with patients and adjust their medications based on exam findings through collaborative drug therapy protocols.

In the second half of a typical day, I do outreach and follow-up to diabetes patients via phone. These phone calls are usually a discussion about titration of their insulin therapy based on elevated, self-monitored blood glucose values.

When I’m not at clinic, I’m at school. During these weeks, I usually have a mix of teaching and facilitating in therapeutics courses, as well as a capstone course in the P3 year. Additionally, I spend time doing research focused on evaluating optimal primary and secondary prevention of CVD therapy and patient-centered outcomes.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

I have had many rewarding days in my career, and all of them have involved patients and various learners (e.g., students, residents).

The rewarding days involving patients typically occur when they can see the impact that their self-care and medication therapy have had on improving how they feel, their numbers, and their overall chronic disease control.

The most rewarding days involving students and learners occur when the team-based care model is successful. This means that I’ve been successful in teaching and promoting this model of care to others.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging days of my career are related to negative health consequences in my patients. It’s especially challenging when I see that these negative consequences could have been prevented by improvements in their health system, whether that’s related to follow-up, access to care, or improved medication adherence.

These challenging days serve as a constant reminder that pharmacists should be key players on every healthcare team, no matter the setting. It also drives me to continue to provide optimal care to patients day in and day out.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was exposed to hospital pharmacy at a young age because my father practiced as a hospital pharmacist for most of his career. I was also exposed to education throughout my life because my mother was an elementary school teacher.

Based on these experiences, I decided to pursue becoming a pharmacy faculty member. I knew that this career would allow me to practice clinically as a pharmacist, while also working as an educator to shape the next generation of pharmacists. This combination was very attractive to me.

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

I knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school when applying to college. So, I made sure to apply at a school that also had a pharmacy school and pre-pharmacy program.

After completing pharmacy school and obtaining my PharmD, I also completed two years of residency training. The residency training provided me with additional clinical, research, and teaching experience necessary to pursue a faculty position.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school would be to look at all the various types of pharmacy jobs that are available to you. This will help you to find the career you will like the most.

What makes your career path unique?

A career as a cardiology pharmacist is unique because it is a highly progressive and evolving field. In cardiology, interdisciplinary knowledge and experience is valued; research techniques and topics are very advanced; the scope of practice is often flexible; and the ability to impact patient care is amongst the highest in the pharmacy field.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My position can be overwhelming at times, but it is also very rewarding. Each day, I work to find a balance between my many responsibilities, which include patient care, scholarly/research, administration, and teaching.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

I think that the most rewarding day of my career will probably be the day I retire. This is because I will be ending my time in pharmacy after a long, distinguished career knowing that I’ve provided optimal patient care and have contributed research that has positively impacted patient care in a life-long way.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day of my career thus far was my very first day after completing my post graduate work. On this day, I was finally on my own in a coronary care unit, where I was responsible for taking care of patients on my own without any oversight. This was challenging because I felt less experienced than my prior mentors and preceptors, but knew I needed to get the job done.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I knew that medication knowledge was rapidly expanding and evolving, which caused this specialty to be in high demand. And, I was also aware that medical management with pharmacotherapy was a primary method for treating and managing patients. I wanted a career that was not very invasive, but that was also specialized and valuable. Cardiology fit that bill!

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

To enter my specific career path, I completed pharmacy school and then did one year of hospital practice residency. This was followed by a two-year clinical research fellowship specializing in cardiology.

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

My advice to pharmacy students would be to remember that pharmacy is unique and impactful but is also extremely competitive.

Also, I’d advise them not to be surprised if a transition from behind the traditional community pharmacy counter and into more into direct patient care areas is something that occurs.

Nancy Rodriguez
What makes your career path unique?

My career path is unique in that I first began my practice as a clinical pharmacist in a pediatric setting. At the same time, I also worked part-time as a retail pharmacist in a Hispanic community, where I filled prescriptions in Spanish.

Throughout my career, I’ve also had the opportunity to work as a home infusion pharmacist and in administrative pharmacy. But, after being introduced to consulting pharmacy by a friend who needed assistance with his new business venture in a long-term care pharmacy setting, this style of pharmacy quickly became my passion.

I now own a pharmacy consulting business where I provide my clinical expertise to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In addition to my pharmacy consulting business, I also work as an assistant professor. In this capacity, I provide future pharmacists with exposure to consulting pharmacy as a possible career path.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My typical day is very busy! I normally start by answering emails and phone calls from peers and pharmacy students.

After this administrative portion of my day, I take pharmacy students to different nursing home sites and introduce them to what their roles would be as consultant pharmacists. Through this process, they learn how to review medication lists, medical history, and medical data to provide recommendations to clinical staff to optimize therapeutic goals for each older adult.

I end a typical day by completing physical inspections and/or providing education to clinical staff.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

There have been many rewarding days throughout my career, but there’s one that stands out to me.

One day, I sat down next to a 91-year-old nursing home resident who seemed distraught and depressed. After talking to her about many things, she mentioned that she had not been sleeping well for several weeks. She complained about having to get up in the middle of the night with assistance to go to the bathroom, and said she wasn’t able to get back to sleep after.

After our conversation, I reviewed her chart and made several recommendations to change her medication regimen.

One month later, I came back to see the same resident. She was smiling and happy to see me. She gave me a huge hug and thanked me for encouraging her physician to change her medications. She was now sleeping through the night.

While this change was minor, the impact on the resident was huge. I feel blessed to have the expertise to make this happen!

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day of my career occurred when I discovered a change in a resident’s medical condition. As a result of this change, I recommended that the physician adjust the patient’s medication regimen. The physician didn’t agree. And, ultimately, the resident’s condition became worse.

While this was frustrating and disheartening, it was also a learning experience. It forced me to think of a creative way to get my point across and solve the problem.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

Pharmacy is a career where you become a patient advocate; especially when it comes to patients that are older adults.

There is an art in being able to communicate with your patient, listen to their needs, be empathetic, and then provide helpful solutions and advice that the patient will adhere to.

These are the things that attracted me to pharmacy.

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

Throughout my career, I’ve established a rapport with my peers as a responsible, timely, and caring clinician. Additionally, I’ve been lucky enough to attend several conferences that have allowed me to keep up with the ever-changing therapeutic treatments and goals of many disease states. And finally, I’ve networked and sought assistance from my colleagues when necessary to enhance my career.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to pursue their passions as they relate to pharmacy. There are many different roles available to a pharmacist today, but finding your passion is the most important.

Pharmacy can be a stressful career. We work long hours and face challenging situations. But, if you love what you do, you won’t mind doing it each and every day!

Debbie Cowan
What makes your career path unique?

I have practiced pharmacy in a small, rural hospital (25 beds) for thirty years. I started my career here as the first pharmacist with a plan to develop a comprehensive program.

Now, my staff consists of eleven people who are responsible for the robust acute care program, outpatient infusion services, and outpatient anticoagulation management. This includes a progressive clinical program (direct patient care) and technology-assisted equipment (“smart” pumps, telehealth, BCMA, CPOE, and CDS software).

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I start each day with a staff huddle to coordinate tasks, assignments, announcements, and priorities.

The remainder of my day is spent in a variety of ways. Some of my most commons tasks include attending meetings and participating in phone calls within the hospital or our six-hospital system, working on tasks to support current or growing programs, improving workflow processes, leading groups (med use safety, pharmacy clinical, system pharmacy operations), managing staff development efforts, and rounding/feedback with staff and patients.

As our pharmacy enterprise has grown, I work to maintain direct patient care as part of my day despite the increasing management duties.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

One of the most rewarding days in my career wasn’t actually a day at all—it was two nights and a day.

Our community had just suffered a hurricane-induced landslide disaster that wiped out a local community. Despite victims being friends and, for some of my staff, family members directly impacted, our team was able to organize our pharmacy effort around the clock to treat victims, take in all the residents of a local nursing home (including providing them with medications), support staff, and assist with community needs.

At a time like that, you realize what support you can give each other and are reminded that we can do anything, even under extremely trying times. I was very proud!

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

One challenging day that sticks out in my memory occurred within the last year.

We had recently moved to a new space with new, clean rooms built with carefully planned specifications to meet USP 797 and 800 requirements. Our construction cultures were negative, so we moved into the space. However, a week later, the cultures came back from the clean room certifier that exceeded the recommended limits. What a dilemma!

It was too late to move back into our old space and we weren’t sure what the reason was for the organisms to have grown. I had to explain to administration what choices we had and what actions we needed to take to ensure we passed for repeat cultures.

I dealt with this challenge by reaching out to experts for advice and by following all of our processes step-by-step, including testing, and completing a risk analysis for our actions.

At this point, we have implemented many changes and are readying for some reconstruction, but it was a very worrisome experience.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I accidentally fell into pharmacy in college when trying a variety of other fields—art and accounting, specifically—after talking to a high school friend with a pharmacist father.

Even in my very first classes, I knew I loved pharmacy! I found learning about how the body worked and how the drugs interacted with the body to be very interesting.

I was drawn to clinical rotations with direct patient care because I felt I could make a difference in patient lives. And, I was drawn to hospital settings where I could see the patient’s labs, for example, and make a change in their therapy.

After several years, I realized I was being drawn into setting up programs to expand pharmacy services and treatment options. Therefore, I took an open position at another hospital as pharmacy manager which has allowed me to continue growing pharmacy programs to this day.

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

Since I was already in college trying other fields, I went to the pharmacy school and met with teachers and advisors to determine the requirements, what pharmacy opportunities existed, and the school structure. While I had already taken most of the science prerequisites, I still had other classes to take for acceptance.

I only spoke to one pharmacist before pursing pharmacy school and a pharmacy career. While this worked for me, I would suggest that students interested in the field plan to talk to more pharmacists and spend more time shadowing than I did.

Once I graduated from pharmacy school, I spent time trying out several jobs before I settled on a hospital as my primary career path.

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

Pharmacy has become quite a diverse field. I’d recommend that students keep their eyes open to all possibilities because they may find they really want to go into an area entirely different from their original idea. I’d also advise them to try a wide diversity of opportunities before they narrow down their practice.

Patricia Kienle
What makes your career path unique?

While I was a student, I worked in a community pharmacy in my hometown. After graduation from pharmacy school, I worked in a hospital pharmacy setting. My career grew from there—as a staff pharmacist, inpatient manager, assistant director of pharmacy, director of pharmacy, and then a system director of pharmacy.

As my career advanced, I became involved in local, state, and national pharmacy organizations, which put me in touch with other pharmacy leaders. I then took a position at a pharmacy management company in a new medication safety role. I’m now with the same company, Cardinal Health, as director of accreditation and medication safety.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

There is no typical day in my career! That said, my time is usually split among traveling to health-system sites to help them comply with regulatory and accreditation standards, writing, presenting talks to professional pharmacy and other medical societies, and working with national standard-setting organizations such as USP.

One thing is for certain, though—I spend a great deal of time traveling. In fact, I travel almost every week to at least one site.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

When I think of rewarding days in my career, there are two that stick out in my memory. The first was when I coordinated pharmacy services during a disaster which involved evacuation of a city and surrounding areas. The second was when I presented testimony to Congress concerning health care.

Those days were hugely prominent in my career, but I truly love every day of my work. I’ve always had the opportunity to work with people who challenge the norm and have patients’ needs in mind. I see that as very rewarding!

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging days in my career are typically when I must deal with an employee who is facing a difficult personal situation.

To be successful in a career like mine, you need experience, knowledge, and a way to work the system. These skills are only gained by earning trust from the people you work with.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

The hometown community pharmacist seemed to be well-thought of by everyone in town. A job that was well-respected was attractive to me.

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

Throughout my career, I’ve worked my way up the administrative ladder. This has occurred because I was always willing to accept challenging roles in the health-system. These continuous advancements and experiences have landed me in the position I am in today.

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

My advice for students entering pharmacy school is to ensure that their science backgrounds are solid, of course. But, to also remember that pharmacy is a “people” profession.

To be successful in the field, they’ll need to be able to communicate well and meld their science knowledge with people skills.

What makes your career path unique?

I entered pharmacy after exposure while training as an engineer. The research I was working on at the time introduced me to the areas of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics, which explain how a medication works on the body and what the body can do to a medication once it enters the body.

My understanding of these core concepts led me to pursue a career where I could work daily to figure out ways to improve these two parameters to make sure that bacteria, viruses, and/or fungi that cause infection are killed in the fastest way possible.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I start my days looking up information in various patient charts to figure out what type of infection they have and if the current antimicrobial agent is appropriate or not. During this process I may reach out to providers to ask them to change or adjust therapy.

I also attend several meetings with hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, and other pharmacists to design treatment algorithms, create new functionality within electronic medical records, and to find systematic ways to improve our use of antibiotic therapy within the hospital.

I teach classes some days to medical students and often have pharmacy residents and other trainees with me throughout the day learning about antibiotic therapy.

In the afternoons I usually visit the microbiology lab within the hospital to review the bacteria growing from patient-specific cultures to help me make decisions about what therapy to use.

I then close out my day by attending physical rounds on patients with my team that consists of an ID physician, ID medical fellow, medical students, residents, and interns.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding day of my career was when I was able to implement a new dosing algorithm for managing pediatric patients on therapy with vancomycin—a drug used to treat staphylococcus infections.

After initiating the new algorithm, one of the hospital physicians notice that his patients were consistently achieving adequate levels of the medication, which prevented them from having to stay two extra days in the hospital.

It was very rewarding to see the impact of my intervention being realized in actual patients and making a difference in care.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day of my career was losing a patient to a very aggressive form of a yeast that had grown in their brain. Despite my efforts to optimize treatment with antifungal therapy, the patient outcome was not positive.

It is very difficult and humbling to know that despite all efforts there are some things that we cannot control. Even in this challenge, the patient’s family was very appreciative of all our efforts.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was not initially interested in becoming a health care professional. In fact, I made my way into the pharmacy field because of research interests that sparked a desire to transition into clinical pharmacy practice.

I see clinical pharmacy practice as a way to forge a connection between benchtop research and application to patients. The opportunity to see research directly translate into improved patient outcomes was my primary attraction.

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

Before attending pharmacy school, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Southern University and A&M College and a Master’s of Science in Environmental Engineering from University of Florida.

I then obtained my Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Houston, and PGY-1 residency in Huntsville, Alabama.

Following my residency, I had a myriad of clinical and faculty positions that eventually led me to the sub-specialty areas of pediatrics, oncology/BMT, and infectious diseases in both pediatric and adult patients.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to be open minded throughout all of your experiences and take every opportunity to explore non-traditional pharmacist roles in the pharmaceutical industry, clinical research settings, and fellowship opportunities.

What makes your career path unique?

My career path is unique because I’ve worked in a variety of clinical practice areas since completing post-graduate residency training.

While I did most of my post-graduate year two residency training in infectious diseases pharmacotherapy, it was a pharmacotherapy specialty residency. Having that broad exposure to clinical settings and in-depth knowledge of pharmacotherapy management of various disease states has afforded me the opportunity to work in a variety of settings.

Prior to my current position, I worked as a clinical pharmacist on internal medicine floors of a large, academic medical center. Then, I worked as an antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at a small, community hospital. Following that position, I worked as an infectious diseases pharmacist in an ambulatory care setting where I worked closely with those impacted by HIV, Hepatitis C, and tuberculosis to help each patient successfully meet therapeutic goals.

All of these unique experiences helped me obtain the skills I need to advance to my current position, where I develop and maintain clinical pharmacotherapeutic content for clinical decision support tools used by healthcare providers all over the world.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

At any one time, I am working on various projects and tasks related to my job. Therefore, no two days ever look alike!

While I always have daily tasks that need to be completed, my days are mostly made up of continuing work or initiating work on a variety of projects; attending meetings with fellow team members; and addressing customer concerns or questions as they relate to our content.

Because my workload is fluid, my days are flexible. This affords me the opportunity to pursue other duties outside of the workplace like being a mother, wife, and a community volunteer.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

As part of my role as a clinical pharmacist in an HIV clinic, I spent my time working to get my patients’ access to—and successful outcomes from—Hepatitis C antiviral treatment for those patients who were co-infected. This required the used of very expensive medications that had to be taken daily with no missed doses for optimal success.

One of my patients at the time did not speak any English. When he came to clinic one day, he was due to refill his medications and made us aware that he lost insurance and was no longer able to afford the refill for his Hepatitis C medication (it was going to cost him around $33,000).

For three days, I worked with the clinic’s social workers, the patient’s pharmacy, our interpreter staff, and the drug company to find grant money to pay for this patient’s prescription. Additionally, we worked together to get him enrolled in prescription drug coverage for his next refill.

Because of this effort, the patient was able to get his medicines and we were able to successfully treat his Hepatitis C—even after missing five days of medication.

This was a very rewarding day! I am proud to have been able to research and find resources to help the patient meet his treatment goals while also working with a variety of healthcare providers to make it happen.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

Working closely with a patient population with an incurable disease can be emotionally challenging at times. While HIV is a disease that is manageable, success is dependent on patients taking their medications consistently as prescribed for the remainder of their lives, and there are many challenges that can prevent this from occurring.

I once worked with a female patient who was the same age as me. She refused to take her medications because she was being busy caring for her family as a single mother. Unfortunately, as a result, she passed away suddenly from her comorbid disease state. When I found out about this, I was devastated!

As pharmacists, we always want what is best for your patients. But, sometimes providing the tools necessary just isn’t enough. This is one of the most challenging parts of my job.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was always attracted to the health care field. As I explored various career options, I liked pharmacy, specifically clinical pharmacy. This is mainly because I saw that this field would provide me with the opportunity to focus on the treatment aspect of patient care while also affording me flexibility to develop other passions and interests.

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

I completed two years of pre-pharmacy coursework at a liberal arts schools before being accepted into a four-year professional pharmacy school program.

After receiving my Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and my Doctorate in Pharmacy, I completed a post-graduate year one residency program and a post-graduate year two residency program—both in pharmacotherapy.

Later in my career, I also went to school part-time to complete a Master’s in Public Health to better equip myself with necessary skills to execute clinical research projects to advance clinical pharmacy practice.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to work hard and seek out various opportunities to expose you to a variety of practice settings. The harder you work and the more experiences you have, the more opportunities will be available to you.

Also, I’d advise students to keep an open mind as they progress through their schooling, training, and career. Opportunities that they might not expect may turn out to be the most rewarding.

What makes your career path unique?

I started out as a clinical pharmacy specialist in cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Colorado (KPCO). I was able to directly care for patients under protocol, starting in 2001. This was before other most pharmacists from around the country were able to do so.

After 15 years at KPCO, I was recruited by Cardinal Health to be a clinical director, which meant that I was consulting for large IDNs. I was at Cardinal Health for 2.5 years when Catholic Health initiatives (CHI) recruited me to be their system director of clinical pharmacy services. CHI has over 100 hospitals in 19 states in their system, so by taking this job, I am able to have a substantial impact on pharmacy practice across the nation.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Typically, my workday consists of meetings, planning, and responding to email.

In my role, I must plan for where I think healthcare will be going as it pertains to pharmacy and health systems. This requires that I meet with clinicians from across the hospital system (pharmacists, physicians, nurses, etc.), with senior leaders in pharmacy, nursing, medicine, radiology, and supply chain to ensure we are aligned with our visions, and with pharmaceutical companies to discuss clinical attributes of medications and contracting.

In addition to meetings, I also answer many emails daily to ensure transparent communication.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

I think the most rewarding day of my career was when I was able to present a day-long seminar in Dubai, UAE.

I was asked by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy to speak in Dubai on updates in cardiology guidelines. During that trip, I was able to expand my cultural knowledge, as well as teach others.

It was rewarding to speak with the people there and to learn their culture. Of all the presentations I’ve done, that was the most memorable.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day in my career occurred when I had been a pharmacist for about five years. A supervisor position became available, and I knew that I wanted to be a leader. So, I applied for that position, and did not get it. I was heartbroken.

That said, I learned from that experience, and took in all the feedback I was given. I decided which feedback I felt was most valuable and incorporated it in my behavior.

Eleven years later, I was recruited for a system director position. So, even though I was not given the news I wanted that day, the feedback I received help me become the leader I am today.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

For years, pharmacists have been one of the most trusted professions in America. That attribute attracted me because I had seen the frustrations my parents faced in dealing with the healthcare system.

Also, pharmacists have such a wide variety of jobs they can do, from clinical, to operations, to management, to drug information, to regulatory, to consulting, and beyond. Customizing a career path is a huge positive for any profession. Additionally, I had a strong passion for chemistry and working with people, which both play well for pharmacists. A combination of these three things is what attracted me to a career in pharmacy.

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

I was the first person in my family to go to college, so it was not easy to get where I am.

I worked hard to be the valedictorian of my high school class. This ensured that I could afford to go to college, because I knew that my parents were unable to help me.

I was accepted into pharmacy school right out of high school. During pharmacy school, my class was the last to choose to get either a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy or a doctorate degree in pharmacy (PharmD). I was one of the few students who choose to pursue a PharmD.

During the time that I was graduating from pharmacy school, there was a shortage in retail pharmacists. This meant that retail pharmacy was paying very good money. But, despite the money, I chose to complete two residencies instead—this was when very few PharmDs chose that route. I am grateful that I made that decision, because it allowed me to pursue clinical practice.

After I became a clinical pharmacy specialist, I not only worked very hard at my job, I also got my name out into the field by presenting and publishing. That helped recruiters find me, which created career advancement opportunities.

Going above and beyond consistently has helped me get to where I am today.

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

For students entering pharmacy school, I would recommend first and foremost that they focus on their studies. It’s important to understand what they are learning in order to advance.

Second, I’d advise them to find some time to work in a pharmacy, be in retail, or practice in a hospital. There is no substitute for real-life experience.

Third, I’d suggest that they be actively engaged in their college life. This means interacting with their fellow students, volunteering, and socializing. College is a great place to network and meet future colleagues.

Fourth, pharmacy students should always go above and beyond. They should a paper to publish, participate in research, and collaborate with others. In other words, they should work diligently to put experiences on their resumes/CVs. This effort will help them to stand out so they can earn a residency, which will provide them with the experiences needed to kick-start a successful career.

And finally, pharmacy students shouldn’t be afraid to work hard. I promise, it will pay off!

Erin Hickey
What makes your career path unique?

Oncology pharmacy is unique for many reasons.

First, it’s a particularly fast-growing area of medicine—there were 63 new approvals for the use of hematology/oncology drugs last year! Helping the medical team and patients make the best use of these medications requires specialty-trained oncology pharmacists.

Next, oncology pharmacists also have a wide variety of clinical practice opportunities, as well as opportunities in cancer research, clinical trials, specialty pharmacy, and much more.

And finally, oncology pharmacists working in clinical settings usually have a high level of patient interaction. We have the opportunity to see patients in the hospital and in clinic and have the honor of getting to know our patients well.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I am a postgraduate year two (PGY-2) oncology pharmacy resident, which means that I rotate month-to-month through many areas of hematology and oncology practice.

A typical day in clinical oncology pharmacy includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • reviewing medications
  • rounding with the medical team to make therapy recommendations and plan cancer treatment
  • teaching patients about their chemotherapy and other medications
  • dosing and approving chemotherapy
  • monitoring medications
  • making sure a patient has a smooth transition from inpatient to outpatient settings

No day is complete without many medication-related questions from nurses, physicians, and patients that require complex problem solving!

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The best part about oncology pharmacy is working closely with the patients! It’s amazing to see patients stay positive as they endure a life-altering disease.

Although it’s challenging at times, sharing little happy moments with patients and helping them at their most vulnerable state is truly rewarding.

One particularly memorable experience occurred when I was monitoring methotrexate (a chemotherapy used mainly to treat leukemias and lymphomas) for a patient in the hospital. We would celebrate every level that came back at goal, because that meant one step closer to going home to her family.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

It’s most challenging when patients who you’ve made a close relationship with pass from cancer, especially when it is sudden.

While I cannot choose just one challenging day in this regard, these situations have a way of linking you with humanity, which has always been important to me in my career.

As a pharmacist, these situations prompt me to help choose the best treatments for patients with the least toxicity possible, and they remind me to always take patients’ wishes into account.

Providing supportive care to patients at the end of life can also be extremely rewarding, and oncology pharmacists certainly have a role in this.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was most attracted to a career in pharmacy because I loved the idea of being able to understand something so fascinating and complex—medications. And, I wanted to use this understanding to help people.

Pharmacy allows me to use basic sciences like chemistry, biology, and immunology, to solve complex problems while making relationships with patients and working on a team.

When I discovered that pharmacy has an extremely wide range of career paths, I knew that I would be fulfilled.

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

I was the first person in my family to go to college, so it was not easy to get where I am.

To enter into this career, I began by working as a pharmacy technician in community and hospital pharmacy when I was 17 years old.

Then, I obtained my bachelor’s degree from James Madison University (JMU) and completed my PharmD at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). After graduation, I began a PGY-1 pharmacy practice residency at University of Kentucky HealthCare, where I am currently completing my PGY-2 in hematology/oncology pharmacy.

As a student, I took every opportunity to get to know the profession better. These experiences included talking to every pharmacist I worked with about their journeys, joining my pre-pharmacy club at JMU, and completing a 6-week summer academic enrichment program to explore pharmacy and other health professions at VCU before pharmacy school. I also took on leadership positions and designed a research project which helped prepare me for a challenging residency.

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

Pharmacy school is an explosion of learning opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom. This is important for professional growth, but students may feel pressured to do everything.

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to be aware of all opportunities and only participate in the (organizations, projects, employment opportunities) that they love and that fit with their professional goals. Also, mentors are key to making this a success!

What makes your career path unique?

I was always interested in pharmacy, but I was a bit confused about some of the prerequisite requirements. Specifically, I didn’t want to commit to many years in pharmacy school and I definitely didn’t want to take Latin classes!

Ultimately, I realized that being in school was something that I enjoyed, so the extra years were no longer an issue. And, after doing a bit of research about the real pharmacy school prerequisites, I found out I didn’t have to take Latin! So, I decided to pursue a career in pharmacy!

As an older pharmacist, I was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy and go to work right away. After working for about a year, I went back to school at night to obtain my Doctor of Pharmacy degree through a nontraditional program.

I’ve spent most of my career working in hospital pharmacy, but I have done other things along the way including working for Costco as their pharmacist in two different warehouses. I was able to open both warehouses which was a very neat experience.

I was several years into my career before I specialized, which is another unique aspect of my journey.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

One thing I love about pharmacy is that every day has the potential to be different. This makes it hard to define a typical workday.

I do usually spend several hours in the morning rounding with the medical team in the neonatal intensive care unit, where I monitor drug therapy and make recommendations to improve medication regimens.

I also answer drug information questions throughout the day from other pharmacists, doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, social workers, or anyone else involved in the care of babies.

I have projects that I work on in the afternoons, like creating or updating policies or order sets. And, lastly, education is a big part of my job—whether that’s educating other health care professionals on new drugs (or new uses for old drugs) or educating pharmacy students and residents.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

My most rewarding days are typically the ones where I have made a significant catch or a recommendation that I know has had an impact on the well-being of a patient.

The sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that I’ve made someone’s life better because of something I’ve done makes up for all of the challenging days!

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The days that are the most challenging in my career are typically those that involve dealing with internal resistance to recommendations. Sometimes in these scenarios, responses from health care professionals can be rude or short. But, I’m happy to see that this happens less often now because health care has begun to emphasize a more interprofessional approach.

Additionally, it’s always a very challenging day when dealing with the loss of a patient that I’ve cared for directly.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

How medications work has always been very fascinating to me. It’s powerful to think about how taking a tiny tablet by mouth can help to fix a problem in some other part of the body.

As I learned more about the profession, I saw what a valuable role I could play as part of the health care team using that specialized knowledge about medications.

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

I worked as a pharmacy technician before I was accepted into pharmacy school. This was a great way for me to learn more about the profession and to gain experience, as well.

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

Pharmacy is a career that requires life-long learning. I try not to think about pharmacy school as a set number of years of training before being finished. Instead, I focus on the mindset that there will always be more to learn. My advice would be to adapt this mindset.

Also, it’s important to remember that pharmacy is a career focused on caring for patients. Even if you don’t speak to a patient directly, the care you provide will impact them directly. Don’t ever lose that focus!

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.

Peter Johnson
What makes your career path unique?

I am a full-time faculty member with the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And, I specialize in pediatrics, specifically pediatric critical care

That said, I also maintain an active practice site in the Medical and Cardiovascular Surgery (CV) Pediatric ICU (PICU)’s at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

So, my position is unique in that I have a good amount of direct patient care responsibilities for critically ill children in the PICU, but also do quite a bit of teaching pharmacy students and residents in pediatric pharmacy and acute care topics like pain management and fluid and electrolytes.

In my role, I precept P1-P4 pharmacy students and PGY1 pharmacy and PGY2 residents in the PICU settings. I also serve as the residency program director for the PGY2 pediatric pharmacy residency and director of the clinical and translational science fellowship in pediatric pharmacotherapy at the OU College of Pharmacy and The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I round with the multi-disciplinary medical or CV PICU teams three to four days per week. These patients care rounds usually occur in the morning time, and I spend the rest of my work day on teaching activities or clinical research initiatives. In addition to this, I often follow-up on ongoing clinical activities throughout my day, so organization skills are a must.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding part of each work day is the privilege I have to take care of sick children. As a clinical pharmacist in the pediatric intensive care unit, I take care of some of the sickest patients in our health-system.

It is truly a blessing to help share my knowledge and experience with the medical teams and families to ensure that we use medications safely and effectively in these sick patients.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging parts of my days are when I have to balance patient care activities with my other academic responsibilities.

I have a very active practice site full of very sick children. Some days it is challenging to make sure that I accomplish my needed tasks related to academia, while also making sure that I address the needs of the children in my care.

As my mentor once said, “Nothing comes before the care of a sick child.” So, I have tried to keep this motto in mind to help me prioritize my days.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

I was attracted to pharmacy—specifically pediatric pharmacy—over other health professions for two reasons.

First, my family had multiple health issues, including my dad who had lung cancer, my brother who has congenital heart disease, and my mom who has mechanical valve. So, I grew up going with my family to numerous doctor visits, and my family was also constantly in and out of our local, independent pharmacy. I was always interested in how the medications that my family took worked and how they contributed to side effects. For example, when my dad was on numerous pain medications, the only healthcare professional who adequately counseled them on how they worked and the expected side effects was our local pharmacist.

Second, my older brother had to have multiple surgeries to repair his congenital heart defects. Following surgery, he experienced quite a bit of pain. I was particularly interested in a healthcare profession like pharmacy that would be able to help prevent against significant pain in children.

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

To pursue my current career, I completed two pediatric APPE rotations as a fourth-year student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

Then, I went on to complete my pharmacy practice residency at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. It was here that I had the opportunity to complete several pediatric rotations and solidify my long-term goal to be a pediatric pharmacist.

After that, I went on to complete my specialty residency in pediatric pharmacy from the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and Kentucky Children’s Hospital. During this residency, I was able to complete multiple rotations in pediatric critical care which helped prepare me for my current clinical practice.

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

I would recommend that students, residents, and new practitioners seek out mentors in their field to help them transition into their new positions, whether that is residency or a clinical specialist/faculty position. I would not be where I am today without mentors who were willing to listen to me when I was struggling, encourage me when I needed it, and push me where I needed to grow.

I would also recommend that they get involved in professional organizations to network with other practitioners and experts in the field. The relationships that I have developed with other colleagues in professional organizations have been pivotal for my career and, beyond the professional benefits, many have become life-long friends.

Cyrine Haidar
What makes your career path unique?

I am the clinical pharmacogenomics coordinator at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The academic and career path that led me to this position is very unique!

I received my PharmD from the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Lebanon. Although the pharmacy school had been established about eight years before I graduated, my class was the first to graduate after it became the first school of pharmacy to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). This made my path to residencies much easier because one of the requirements of ASHP-accredited residencies is to have graduated from an ACPE accredited school of pharmacy.

After completing a PGY1 in pharmacotherapy at Hackensack University Medical Center, I pursued a PGY2 in Pediatric Oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It was during this time that I fell in love with the mission of St. Jude—no child should die in the dawn of life.

My love for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s mission led me to my next career step, which was joining their team of excellent clinical pharmacy specialists. I served as the ambulatory care solid tumor and neuro-oncology specialist for eight years.

During this time, pharmacogenomics researchers in the U.S. and across the globe were busy publishing their findings. The pharmaceutical department at St. Jude decided it was time to move pharmacogenomics into clinical practice. In 2012, I became the first pharmacist whose job was solely devoted to the implementation of pharmacogenomics into clinical practice.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My typical day involves running the clinical pharmacogenomics service at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Although I coordinate the efforts for successful implementation, I would not be able to function without the close working relationships with my other team members inside and outside of the pharmaceutical department. Collaborations with the clinical laboratory, informatics department, physicians, and patient educators are all vital to the success of the program.

On a daily basis, I analyze patients’ pharmacogenomic results, place results in their medical records, and create educational materials for patients and clinicians. During all of this, a PGY2 clinical pharmacogenomics resident shadows me to learn how to become an independent practitioner after graduation.

I also help other centers establish similar programs at their own institutions. You can read more about what my team and I do daily on the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital website.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

There have been many rewarding days throughout my career.

The first one occurred when I was a student in my pediatric APPE rotation. I was assigned to follow a patient who was receiving chemotherapy for the treatment of pediatric leukemia. He was experiencing a large amount of toxicity because of the chemotherapy regimen he had received, so I looked at his chart to see how I could help him. After reading through the chart, I noticed that he had not been given the rescue medicine that is typically given after his specific form chemotherapy. Once I informed the attending physician and fellow about it, they were very thankful that I brought this to their attention. We gave the rescue medicine to the child and he progressively improved.

The second rewarding day occurred after I had been practicing as a clinical specialist for a couple of years. One of the patients that I had been taking care of for a while was admitted to the hospital with a multi-drug resistant infection. Because he was a very complicated patient taking lots of other medications and was suffering from liver dysfunction, the physician taking care of him asked me to come up with a treatment regimen that would be best suited for this specific patient.

This is very typical, but this interaction is memorable for me because this physician was not very fond of having pharmacists make drug therapy selections. Since that day, she has recognized me as a valuable and necessary member of her team.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging days in my career have all occurred when I had to work with my team to come up with a plan to provide alternative therapy recommendations. This typically occurs because the intended medication is not currently available on the market due to a drug shortage.

Switching modalities of therapies in oncology is always a concern because patients may not benefit as much from the modified regimen as they do when they’re treated with the originally-assigned regimen.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

At first, I was interested in pharmacy school because I very much enjoyed the topics of chemistry and biology in high school. I felt that pharmacy school provided me with the right balance of both.

I come from a family of pharmacists (they practiced in industry and retail), so I was very familiar with these two practice sites. That said, I was very much unaware of the option to practice clinical pharmacy as a career. I discovered clinical pharmacy when I started my rotations, and I quickly decided that this was the path I wanted to follow.

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

Because I was the first pharmacist to hold a full-time pharmacogenomics position, there wasn’t any training available to people like me who wanted to pursue a career in genomics at the time. I had advanced knowledge and interest in the field, which was the best that could be done. Instead of obtaining specialty training, I had to learn on the job.

Today, pharmacy students interested in pursuing a career in pharmacogenomics would need to earn a PharmD, then complete PGY1 and PGY2 residencies in clinical pharmacogenomics.

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

Pharmacists can be found practicing in many diverse settings. I would encourage students entering pharmacy school to take every opportunity they have to shadow pharmacists in as many different fields as possible. This will allow them to better choose their career path when they are closer to graduation.

I would also tell them not to hesitate to ask questions when they don’t understand something. Their preceptors and teachers will learn as much from their questions as students will learn from their answers.

Finally, I would advise future pharmacy students to enjoy the time they spend at school and the friends and connections they make, because they will last forever.

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!

Teresa Elsobky
What makes your career path unique?

My career path is unique because I get to work and collaborate with many different healthcare professionals, including substance abuse counselors, recreation therapists, counselors, and others.

My career area is also different because mental illnesses are treated using many modalities—not just medications. This has provided me with a unique appreciation for all treatment methods.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

During a typical morning at work, I meet with the entire healthcare team to discuss patients for about an hour. After that, I provide medication education to patients on the inpatient psychiatric unit. Additionally, I collaborate with the healthcare team to make sure that each patient is on the best medication regimen possible for them.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

One of the most rewarding days of my career occurred when I worked with a patient to identify why it was important to him to continue taking his medications.

He explained that when he took his medications, his mood and behavior would stabilize. This helped him accomplish his daily tasks as a landscaper.

This was exciting because it meant that I was doing my job well and helping to improve the life of my patient.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging days of my career occur when I have competing responsibilities and can’t spend as much time as I would like with my patients.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

The thing I found most attractive about a career in pharmacy is how accessible pharmacists are to their patients when compared to other healthcare professions.

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

When I was in high school, I completed many community service hours at a community pharmacy. This experience helped me to determine that this specific career path was the right one for me.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school would be to take steps to make sure that they know how to organize their time before pharmacy school begins.

Additionally, I’d advise them to ask their professors all of their questions right when they come up instead of relying only on their classmates to address and answer questions.

Elizabeth Cohen
What makes your career path unique?

My career path is unique because I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, but decided I liked working with people too much to work in a lab forever.

So, I worked in a pharmacy during the summer of my junior year of college and loved it! I decided to pursue pharmacy as my career path after this.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

On a typical morning, I round with the transplant team which consists of surgeons, kidney and liver doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, dietitians, care coordinators, and pharmacists. During these rounds, I make sure that patients are educated about their new transplant medications and make sure that they feel comfortable with their medications before leaving.

During this time, I also meet with patients that have left the hospital after a transplant. During these meetings, we talk about their medications, make sure that they are taking them as they should, and change their doses as needed.

In the afternoon, I spend time with my students and residents. During this time, I teach them about transplant, complete research, and meet with other team members about projects.

Describe the most rewarding day of your career.

The most rewarding day of my career was when I obtained a grant to do a research study. On that day, one of the physicians I work with told me he was proud to work with me.

I work with an amazing transplant team that is extremely collaborative and puts an emphasis on helping everyone progress their careers. It’s very rewarding.

Describe the most challenging day of your career.

The most challenging day of my career was a day that we had a very sick patient after her kidney transplant.

The transplant surgeon requested a medication that we do not use in our patient population due to a lack of data to demonstrate that it works. Despite this fact, the physician wanted to use it.

I worked closely with the pharmacy managers and the transplant team to develop a plan that made sense for the patient and was based on evidence.

These types of interactions are always a challenge but having a strong relationship with the team and providing data to support your recommendations makes for a good outcome. Appropriate patient care is always our priority.

What most attracted you to pharmacy over other healthcare professions?

The thing that attracted me to pharmacy is the fact that pharmacists are intimately involved in ensuring patient adherence with their medications and providing medication education.

Pharmacists are also one of the most accessible professionals within the industry and are uniquely positioned to help increase our patients understanding of their disease states and medications.

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

To enter into this career path, I obtained a chemistry degree and then attended pharmacy school.

While in pharmacy school, I loved my transplant lectures and noticed that the transplant pharmacists I knew were heavily involved in pharmacy, patient care, and research.  Also, I found the disease state to be very interesting and the patients to be very strong.

Based on this interest and passion, I decided to shadow a transplant pharmacist in pharmacy school. My shadowing experience helped me decide to pursue specialized residency training after pharmacy school.

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

My advice to students entering pharmacy school is to work hard and make connections with pharmacists.

It’s hard to predict which area of pharmacy will interest them the most. So, the more they are exposed to, the better they’ll understand the potential career opportunities.