Why I Became a Pharmacist: The Runners-Up

Pharmacy TimesFebruary 2014 Autoimmune Disorders
Volume 80
Issue 2

The runners-up in our third annual essay contest tell their stories.

The entries for our third annual essay contest, which asked readers to explain why they became pharmacists, ranged from the humorous to the heartfelt. To read the essay of our contest winner, Sharlene Ghassemi, PharmD, click here.

To read the essays of our 2 runners-up and the best essay by a current pharmacy school student, click on their names or scroll down. Thanks also to everyone who entered the contest.

  • Alan Atchison, PharmD, MBA, CDE
  • Robin Craft, RPh
  • Kristen Masood, PharmD Candidate

Alan Atchison

Alan Atchison, PharmD, MBA, CDEHepatitis C Clinical Pharmacist, Diabetes Educator, Walgreens at the St. Cloud Medical Group, St. Cloud, MN

Sometime the best answers are the ones that come years after asking a question.

I was asked the question, “Why did you become a pharmacist?” at a student health careers class I was speaking at 7 years ago. I came up with some typical responses: “I want to care for patients.” “Great work-life balance.” “Professional environment.” These seemed like the right things to say, but I have to admit there wasn’t a lot of heart in those answers. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate all of those things, but I can’t say they were enough to truly inspire me.

A few years after that speaking event, I sat down for a MTM/diabetes education appointment as part of a diabetes specific program my employer, Walgreens, gave me support to build in the clinic pharmacy where I work. The doctor who finally sent me the referral probably did so because he was sick of me bugging him for referrals, and he sent me his “worst” patient to try to get me to stop. I still remember the smell of cigarette smoke in that patient room and the terrible sound of this poor patient gasping for air. She started off by saying she needed help and didn’t know what to do. The gastric bypass surgeon would not operate on her because of her breathing issues, and she was scared about her diabetes since her dad had just passed away at age 62 after years of struggle and amputations. To be honest, I was a little scared too. I knew I was “next up” to find a solution for this poor 380-pound woman, and I didn’t want to let her down. We spent an hour talking about her medication, her diet, and exercise. We were able to set some simple goals for some pretty glaring issues and set a home monitoring plan with her glucose to make sure we kept in touch with her progress.

Every time this patient comes back to the pharmacy in the two years since her first appointment, and insists on giving me a hug, is the reason I became a pharmacist. Fortunately for her, and for close to 200 others that providers have trusted my team to help, the connection and accountability with a local pharmacist was the recipe for success with her health. Those hugs are easier every time, as she is down over 150 pounds (without gastric bypass). We’re still working on the smoking, but she has cut that in half. I lost a script when she was able to stop her metformin, but I’ve gained a customer for life—a hopefully much longer life at that!

This success has much more to do with the potential of our profession, and not about any special talent I bring to the table. I hope we all truly start to see how big this profession really is and can be in helping to meet our patients’ needs.

Robin Craft

Robin Craft, RPhCo-owner with her husband, Joe, of Plain City Druggist and Midwestern Compounding Pharmacy, Plain City, OH

My husband, Joe, had just graduated from pharmacy school and received his pharmacist license a few months before our honeymoon. Since we had more than a 5-hour flight to Ireland for our 10-day honeymoon trip, Joe brought along a stack of pharmacy magazines with continuing education (CE) articles and quizzes for the long air travel.

At the airport, I began browsing through the magazines. The articles were interesting. I could easily answer the multiple guess questions at the end of each section. By the time I completed the quiz sheets, Joe wouldn’t have to do any CE for years!

Finishing up one of the quizzes, I innocently asked Joe, “Do you think I could become a pharmacist?”

His answer was a resounding, “Of course, you could!”

While I already had degrees in geology and English and a relatively good job with the government, I wasn’t very happy with the work I was doing. I was bored and didn’t feel challenged mentally, wasting my days away in a small cubicle where time seemed abundantly in excess.

I continued to ponder pharmacy school and, over the next few months, I took courses at a local community college to finish the requirements I needed to apply.

The following autumn, after being accepted into the pharmacy program at the Ohio State University, I started my first day of pharmacy classes. Joe and I were celebrating our 1-year anniversary as I began a staggering curriculum of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, quantitative analysis, and compounding lab.

Joe says (although, I don’t recall any of this—I don’t believe I would ever act so violently!) that after my first week of classes, I came home and punched him in the arm as hard as I could.

“What did I do?” he asked, rubbing his bruised bicep.

“What have you gotten me into?” I supposedly asked him. “This stuff is impossible!”

Nothing at all like those easy CEs I had whipped out in minutes on our honeymoon.

“The worst part is,” I continued, “I can’t quit. I told everyone I was doing this. Why didn’t you tell me it was going to be so hard?”

For Joe, with his photographic memory and his sunshiny attitude, pharmacy school probably wasn’t as difficult as it seemed to me. He also had a very biased belief that I could succeed at anything, so he probably had no clue what his innocent, “Of course, you could,” had done to my life.

I hunkered down and made it through pharmacy school, receiving my degree and my license. I am glad I pursued pharmacy, as Joe and I now own an independent drugstore and get to spend a lot of time together—time we would never have shared if I had not become a pharmacist.

The moral of this story is, be careful asking your new spouse if they think you can do something. When they believe you are the best thing ever, they will always tell you that you are capable of anything!

Kristen Masood

Kristen Masood, PharmD CandidateClass of 2014, University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy

At a very young age, I decided I wanted to become a pharmacist when I grew up. When assigned a 1-day shadow experience in my middle school careers class, I could have chosen to shadow anyone. Many of my peers took the easy route by spending the day with their mom or dad and came back to class the next day most likely still unsure of their future career aspirations. I decided to shadow my friend’s mom, a pharmacist at Rite Aid. Thus began my path towards pharmacy school.

In high school, I spent a semester interning 10 hours a week after school with the same pharmacist I had shadowed and got to experience how a community pharmacist worked and interacted with the public. One memory of this internship that solidified my decision to pursue a career in pharmacy was a woman who came in with her husband just after finding out she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She was a regular at the pharmacy, having 4 children who always seemed to have an ear infection or to have caught a cold from somewhere, leading her into the pharmacy for medications. The compassion the pharmacy staff showed for this woman and her husband when they came in was heartwarming. It was like she was a member of the pharmacy family. While everyone was trying to comfort her, she managed to ask how the father of one of the pharmacists was doing after a recent heart attack. This experience stuck with me throughout the rest of high school and into college, where I decided to pursue a degree in biology on my path to pharmacy school.

During college, I worked part time as a pharmacy technician at an independent pharmacy in Niagara Falls, New York. This was another eye opening experience for me. The pharmacist/owner knew each customer by name and usually knew something else about their life. Whenever someone walked in, they were addressed by their name and assisted almost immediately. I really enjoyed my job at that small independent and before IPPE or APPE rotations even began, I had decided I wanted to work in a community pharmacy after I received my PharmD. After completing a majority of my rotations, I still believe my calling is in community pharmacy.

Since pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers, I feel that being a community pharmacist will put me in a position to help the largest number of patients. I enjoy interacting with people and watching their health and wellbeing improve. The joy I have seen in patients after being taught how to properly use their asthma medication or being helped to save money by switching to a generic prescription makes all the stress and hard work that has gone into getting a PharmD worthwhile.

While I have enjoyed and learned a lot during all my rotations at the University of Saint Joseph, I felt the most rewarded when working with patients in the community setting. My 4 weeks at CVS and 6 weeks at the Medicine Shoppe were very different experiences, but they have helped me solidify my decision to work in a community setting. With new initiatives such as Medication Therapy Management and immunizations, pharmacists can play a much more active role in patient care than in the past. I want to make a difference in my patient’s lives, and I know I will be able to do that as a pharmacist!

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