For Richard Garcia, a 2013 PharmD Candidate at Western University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy in Pomona, California, volunteering in the community surrounding the campus has a special meaning.
A lifelong resident of Pomona, Garcia’s public service activities impact the lives of his neighbors and make his hometown a better, and healthier, place to live. Garcia has worked with local residents both young and old to help improve their lives, an achievement that earned him the April Walmart/Pharmacy Times RESPy Award.
Garcia says that his favorite extracurricular activity has been volunteering with Pomona Health Career Ladder (PHCL), a pipeline program that encourages middle school students to pursue health care professions. Once a month, PHCL invites students from Los Angeles County to participate in academies run by each college that focus on an important health topic, such as community health, fitness, or cardiovascular disease. As chair of the Pharmacy Committee, Garcia introduces the students, who now number more than 200, to the profession of pharmacy.
“This has been the most rewarding activity because a goal in my life was to give back and serve the community from which I came. This program has allowed me to do that,” said Garcia.
In addition, Garcia volunteered for a program that went to an Orange County community center to help seniors assess their Medicare Part D coverage. “It was a blessing to assist Spanish-speaking individuals who were paying a lot of money for their Medicare Part D. I was able to ask them about their current medications and switch them to a more cost-efficient program,” he said.
Along with other pharmacy students, Garcia is also helping to develop a course that will train pharmacists in medical Spanish. With over 5 million residents of Los Angeles County speaking a language other than English at home, pharmacists with foreign language skills are becoming increasingly important.
In Pharmacy Times’ interview with Garcia, it became clear that he is the kind of person who will never forget his roots. Already a leader and role model to his fellow students, Garcia is poised to make a big impact in whatever practice setting he chooses.
Q. Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?
A. My desire to become a pharmacist started during my last 2 years in high school. I heard different pharmacists describe the career as prestigious, flexible, challenging, and evolving. Those descriptions drew me to the profession. Furthermore, I learned about the need for Spanish-speaking pharmacists. Since I’m bilingual with Spanish and understand the culture, my desire and passion is to become the best pharmacist possible and to dedicate myself to serving the underserved, specifically Spanish-speaking patients.
Q. What is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?
A. In my opinion, the most important issue in the field of pharmacy is engaging new graduates and making sure they continue to get involved in the profession. We need to continue to support those who represent us as a unit on the state and national level. If we do not, we will allow others to dictate how we practice pharmacy in the near future. It’s not just about working and making a living—we must continue what our colleagues started in the past for the profession. Ultimately, we must look out for the most important variable in our equation—the patient.
Q. What is the role of technology in pharmacy?
A. Technology will continue to be a big part of pharmacy because it can be used to minimize errors that can potentially kill our patients. We must use it efficiently to make us better health providers. However, we cannot rely on it to the point where we do not use the people skills and knowledge gained during school.
Q. What are your plans after graduation?
A. My long-term professional goals have been narrowed down to ambulatory care for patients with hypertension or diabetes mellitus or possibly teaching at a pharmacy institution. PT
The RESPy (Respect, Excellence, and Service in Pharmacy) Award is presented to the student who has made a difference in his or her community by demonstrating excellence in pharmaceutical care. For more information, please visit www.PharmacyTimes.com.
About the School
Western University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy was the 4th college of pharmacy to be established in California. Today, the College prepares students in a humanistic, interdisciplinary tradition to become competent, qualified professionals. The school offers traditional and international post-baccalaureate PharmD programs, as well as a program leading to a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Studies.