A wise old man once said, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Years and years ago, I participated in a medical mission trip to Honduras. Toward the end of our stay, we visited the children’s hospital in Tegucigalpa to drop off supplies and visit the patients. The children were undernourished and many were very ill; they slept on bare mattresses with no blankets or pillows. But what struck me the most was that in place of IV medication, the children had syringes stuck in their arms, held in place with a small piece of cardboard and duct tape. That sight haunted me for years.
I have chosen a non-traditional path in pharmacy.
Ultimately, I decided that pharmacy was a good fit due to my fascination with the way things work, the detail and complexity in the biochemical pathways, and the complicated puzzle of drug interactions. But I additionally discovered that pharmacy could be integrated with my interest and emotional investment in the field of public health.
Life experiences with diverse communities and issues prepare us for the social and cultural perspective that steers public health. It requires an understanding of how people function and their priorities in seeking and receiving healthcare; it requires an understanding not only of medicine and pharmacology, but of economics, religion, philosophy, sociology, medical ethics, and language. This multifaceted world view encourages a sociological perspective in how we can better understand medicine and healthcare.
That view is something I want to pass along to the next generation of pharmacists.
We are a world at war. We are at war with disease, with opioid addiction and drug overdose, with methadone babies, and with housewives with heroin. We are at war with antiquated policies butting up against new research and therapies. We are at war with inaccessibility to costly life-saving therapies, with resistance to antibiotics, with constantly changing healthcare laws, and with a shifting landscape of older patients yet fewer solutions.
Higher education ought to lead society. It has the power to be used as a platform to promote social advocacy—to teach students material and content, yes, but also teach them not what to think, but how to think. How to learn, how to engage, how to interact, how to question, how to critique, and how to begin to unravel the complexities of what lay before us, so they can begin to figure out how to work together to fix it.
I am motivated by learning, and by inspiring others to learn.
I teach to challenge myself, as a lifelong learner. I teach to inspire others and cultivate the best professional version of another person. Throughout my experience as a clinical pharmacist, I have had the privilege of mentoring and precepting students from various pharmacy schools throughout the state. Some students are at the end of their pharmacy curriculum; others are just starting their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations, and still others have been selected as a first- or second-year student intern. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of students that will be entering the pharmacy profession.
In my field, there is little coursework in the curriculum exposing the students to the wide-ranging role of a pharmacist in a public health or managed care environment. The opportunity I have had to mentor pharmacy students throughout their studies and support them in discerning their passions and career goals offers essential knowledge and skills not often gained in a didactic program. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and application of clinical concepts to real-world scenarios are the basis for true pharmacy practice.
My ultimate goal is to inspire and motivate students to become teachers themselves. A true teacher exemplifies integrity, motivation, professionalism, and effective communication. Although these qualities can be learned, leadership in teaching is a characteristic that cannot be taught and is not based on position or title. It is based instead on a vision, solidified by commitment to that vision, and pursued by acquiring the skills to make that vision come to life.
I hold a vision for the next generation of pharmacists—that they, too, be inspired. Inspired to learn, to grow, to advocate, and to teach.