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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 pharmacists 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.

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.

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!

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.