The Purpose-Driven Pharmacist
Author: Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Christian Elizabeth Younts uses her skills to serve the underserved.
For Christian Elizabeth Younts, a 2013 PharmD candidate at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) campus, pharmacy has served as a bridge to other cultures and a means of assisting the underserved.
While working as a retail pharmacy technician before starting pharmacy school, Younts found that she could use her Spanish skills to improve consultations between the pharmacist and Spanish-speaking patients in her community. As a pharmacy student, she has been very active in the MUSC Alliance for Hispanic Health, organizing health fairs at patient-friendly locations such as migrant camps, soccer games, and local shops. The alliance recruits volunteer medical, nursing, and pharmacy students who conduct screenings, counsel patients on healthy lifestyle choices, and supply prenatal vitamins.
Based on her own passion for working with disadvantaged populations, Younts helped set up month-long rotation experiences for pharmacy students in Uganda and Ecuador, again using her Spanish skills to overcome obstacles that arose in arranging the latter trip. Through mission work in these countries as well as the Dominican Republic, Younts has been able to offer assistance to people with basic health needs and strengthened her resolve to help the underprivileged.
Looking forward to her career, Younts emphasizes the importance of interacting with patients. “As pharmacies get busier, more time is spent behind the counter than out talking with the patient,” she says. “Pharmacists are medication experts and hopefully with the advancement of MTM, our role will be accepted and we will have more opportunities to step away from the computer.”
Q: Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?
A: In undergrad, I originally wanted to pursue a major in international business. However, I was more enthusiastic about my chemistry and Spanish courses. After talking to a pharmacist, I realized that I could combine my passion of the 2 fields and started on my journey of studying pharmacy. After graduation from the College of Charleston, I worked as a pharmacy technician at a retail pharmacy not far from a Hispanic community. With my Spanish communication skills, I helped interpret and once actually stopped a contraindicated medication from reaching a pregnant female.
Q: What has been your most rewarding extracurricular activity, and why?
A: My first mission trip was in a small city called La Romana in the Dominican Republic. Our group helped paint and construct wards on the third floor of El Hospital Buen Samaritano (The Good Samaritan Hospital). We also painted churches in bateyes (small towns among the sugar cane fields). Bateye Fifty was the most stricken by poverty. It opened my eyes to life outside the United States where I took so much for granted and it really strengthened me spiritually. God’s purpose for me was right in front of me, and I would never stop helping the underserved in the United States and abroad.
Q: What has been your experience taking part in mission work in Ecuador and Uganda and what has this work meant to you?
A: These 2 countries are where I have really been able to use my pharmacy skills to help patients outside the United States.
In Uganda, the most life-changing experience was when I mixed rehydration salts for a family of 6, all suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea. I counseled the mother on how she could make the same recipe at home with boiling water, table salt, and sugar. I’ve never seen so many faces light up after just drinking clean water.
In Ecuador, I volunteered at Hospital Vozandes Shell. I rounded with the physicians in the morning, made recommendations throughout the day, and helped out in the pharmacy. There was a lot of amazing history about this hospital. The missionaries started the hospital in the 1950s to care for the people from the rainforest, and these missionaries actually were killed for their dream to come true. I immersed myself in all the history through books, living on the original clinic property, and took a trip by aircraft into the jungle to meet the Waodani tribe.
About the School
The South Carolina College of Pharmacy was formed in 2004 through the integration of the Colleges of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. In addition to the 4-year PharmD program, the school offers MS, PhD, and PharmD/PhD degrees.