The Winding Paths of Pharmacy
Throughout their years in pharmacy school, almost all students have been asked, “What do you want to do after graduation?”
Throughout their years in pharmacy school, almost all students have been asked, “What do you want to do after graduation?” Facing such a complex question in a casual manner often forces us to think there should be an easy answer, but as many pharmacy students can attest, this is often not the case.
For a long time, I was certain I was going to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship in the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to take the pharmaceutical fellowship route based on my perception that the nature of work in the industry is fast paced and dynamic. Moreover, I had the privilege of learning from a group of mentors who had pursued fellowships themselves that I would be a good fit in the industry because of my ability to adapt to change, my insight into areas that require change, and my zealousness and eagerness to bring about change.
After all my planning and anticipation, I now find myself on the path to pursuing a residency instead. What changed?
My first Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences rotation was in a hospital-based clinic. It was the first time I was able to interact with hospital inpatients and round with the medical team, and the amount of influence I had on a patient’s course of therapy as a student was beyond what I had expected. The attending physician regularly asked me drug-related questions, changes were made as a result of my interventions, patients were attentive to my counseling recommendations, and the staff members allowed me to assist with their transitions-of-care initiatives. I was making the impact I had always wanted to, only in an unexpected setting.
My experiences will likely be different from yours, but that’s precisely what makes us unique as future pharmacists. Everyone’s experiences will be different, and recognizing that is a crucial first step in your individual path. Colleagues you encounter will be willing to provide advice and share their perceptions and experiences, and although these can certainly be a good guide, you eventually need to make a decision that best suits you and your goals.
Many students often wish for an easy shortcut to the final goals of their careers. In my case, I am guilty of continually looking to my mentors to figure out what my best fit would be, as if they know exactly what I should be doing. What we must realize is that there are far too many jobs available for us to pinpoint exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives; indeed, some jobs may not even exist right now, and you may be the key to creating a new position. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can, and see where you fit, where you don’t, and why, learning more about yourself as you go. Even after making a huge turn in my career path, I am anticipating encountering many more changes, and I hope to remain open-minded to whatever opportunities I encounter in the journey ahead.
John Choi is a 2019 PharmD candidate at the Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.