From Nurse to Pharmacist

Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Published Online: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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Jason Koury is making a difference through patient outreach.

When Jason Koury, a 2014 PharmD candidate at the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, proposed to organize the first-ever “UNM College of Pharmacy Outreach Day,” the initial response was skeptical. The plan was to involve every pharmacy student in community health activities at sites across the state. As this would involve cancellation of classes, faculty approval was required. This was granted unanimously, but the skepticism persisted: “It will never work,” said the doubters. “You’ll never get students to participate.” 

After several months of planning, Outreach Day turned out to be a great success, providing immunizations, health screenings, poison prevention education, and prescription drug abuse education to more than 6000 New Mexicans at sites including the remote Mescalero Apache Tribal School. What was initially envisioned as a one-off event at best is now set to be continued as an annual activity. “New Mexico is a state where many patients cannot afford proper medical care and are in need of assistance,” says Koury. “Through health screenings, immunizations, and education, we are able to offer these patients assistance they might not receive if we were not available.”

In addition to a passion for organization outreach programs, Koury brings to his pharmacy career extensive experience working with patients as a registered nurse. Perhaps this experience explains his response when asked what is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess: “I think it is compassion,” he says. “We do not always understand what our patients are going through, but it is important to support them the best we can.”

Q: Why did you decide to switch from nursing to pharmacy?

A:
 After about a year as a staff nurse in the ICU, I felt like I wanted to advance my education, so I looked at all options, including pharmacy, medicine, and nurse practitioner school. There was a pharmacist in the ICU who stood out and sparked my interest. I was so impressed with how knowledgeable she was and how valuable she was to the team that I started to shadow her and pick her brain. After considering all options, pharmacy was the right direction for me. I had a great interest in chemistry, biochemistry, and how medications work and interact with each other. I also liked that the field was advancing with many opportunities. Finally, I enjoyed helping patients on a very personal level, which is similar to nursing.

Q: How do you feel your background as a nurse will make you a better pharmacist?

A:
I have learned many great ways to communicate and develop relationships with patients. It allows me to have an understanding of what other professionals experience with their jobs. I also feel there are certain skills that I can use in caring for patients such as reading an ECG and helping out in code situations. (These are things you learn in pharmacy school, but to a different extent.) In New Mexico, pharmacists can see patients as clinicians, and I believe that I can draw upon many different assessment techniques that I learned in nursing, which will build upon the skills I will learn in pharmacy.

Q: Is there a particularly memorable story you would like to share about your time in pharmacy school?

A:
I would have to say participating in Outreach Day after everything was set up. I was assigned to one of the senior centers for health screenings and flu shots. It was amazing just looking around the room and seeing all the students enjoying themselves and all the senior citizens enjoying that we were there. They loved that we were there providing them with flu shots and that they had the chance to talk about their lives with us. After the day was over, all the students and senior citizens at our site took a group picture, which was a wonderful way to remember how all of our hard work positively impacted the community.


About the School
The University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, located at the UNM Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, has the most ethnically diverse student body in the United States and is known as the birthplace of nuclear pharmacy. In addition to the traditional PharmD, the school offers MS and PhD degrees in a number of research concentrations.


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