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Effecting Change on the Patient and Community Levels

Author: Jennifer Barrio, Managing Editor

Bonny Chan seeks to improve public health one patient at a time.


Bonny Chan is the type of pharmacy student who seizes every opportunity to hone her clinical and patient care skills. A 2013 PharmD candidate at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy, Chan has a special appreciation for public health that guides her activities outside the classroom. She has coordinated or participated in dozens of USC health fairs, many of which provided immunizations and screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, and drug interactions to populations who otherwise have little health care access. Chan also volunteers off-campus at safety net clinics in the greater Los Angeles area, giving her experience in the ambulatory care setting.

“In the clinics, we help titrate patients’ medications to help them reach therapeutic goals and teach them about lifestyle modifications,” Chan says. “By working in this environment, I’ve realized how hard it is for people to be at goal and how important it is to communicate the importance of medication compliance, especially to people who have a hard time paying for food or medications. Pharmacists sometimes have to be masters of communication and persuasion to help their patients.”

Effective communication is clearly one of Chan’s top priorities in her pharmacy practice. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she finds that being bilingual allows her to better educate and empower the Chinesespeaking community near Los Angeles to be proactive in their own health.

“Many times, patients are relieved to hear someone who is able to speak their native language,” Chan says. “This allows them to talk more openly about their health, thereby letting the pharmacy team take better care of them.”

This dedication to taking care of people helped make Chan the worthy recipient of December’s Pharmacy Times/Walmart RESPy Award. Pharmacy Times’ interview with Chan revealed that she had a life-altering encounter in a hospital and, surprisingly, that this gifted student pharmacist was unsure about pharmacy school right until she stepped on campus.

Q Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

A I grew up knowing that I wanted to become a health care provider, but not specifically a pharmacist. Up until my junior year in college, I still thought I wanted to be a physician. It wasn’t until I observed a surgical procedure at the LA County Hospital and ended up in the emergency department with a blood pressure of 54/40 that I realized I wasn’t well suited for the profession. My volunteer experience at the hospital helped me realize, however, that I wanted to be involved in direct patient care and disease management.

Q Was there a moment when you knew pharmacy was right for you?

A I didn’t know why I was going to pharmacy school until orientation week at USC. The summer before I started pharmacy school, I was volunteering with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) on an earthquake relief project in China. My advisors from the NGO almost convinced me to continue pursuing my passion for public health. I promised myself that I would at least give my pharmacy education a try until the add/drop deadline for coursework. Thankfully, it didn’t take me that long to appreciate what pharmacists do for the public and how my pharmacy education could empower me to do more for public health. During orientation week, I learned more about the diversity of career options in our profession and opportunities to vaccinate and screen the community.

Q What are your long-term professional goals?

A After graduation, I plan to pursue a residency and possibly a master’s in public health. What I love so much about pharmacy is the flexibility of the profession that can offer me the opportunities to work in multiple settings throughout my career. I would enjoy working individually to educate and provide care for my patients one-on-one, but at some point, I would like to work with multidisciplinary teams to care for patients or to develop programs that could affect large groups of people.

Q What do you think is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?

A I think that one of the most important issues in pharmacy today is the public’s perception of pharmacists. Pharmacists are a great resource for their communities. Many people still do not understand the extent of our education and training or the fact that we are the medication experts. PT


About RESPy 

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

Founded in 1905, the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy was the first school to establish the 6-year program leading to the PharmD as the first professional degree. USC also initiated the first clinical pharmacy program in 1968, and the first program in pharmaceutical economics and policy in 1990.