If you ask any health care provider or graduate student why they chose to do what they do, the answer will most likely be rooted in their passion towards helping others and concern for human health. Having said that, if you carry that passion, draw from that passion and find out where you can utilize it. Find out what it is that gives you most joy despite the challenges inherent within the profession. What is it that moves you? What are you called to do? As for me, I found the answers and my passion in pharmacy. The revelation came through the many years that I worked as a retail supervisor at CVS pharmacy. I found the direct interaction with customers enjoyable and rewarding, but I realized that I was very limited in helping them by working on the retail side of the pharmacy. I wanted to be in a position where I can help in a greater capacity, and I saw myself doing that as a pharmacist.
I first attended CSUF in the late 1990s, majoring in biological science, but left in 2000 without completing my degree, and instead resorted to work full-time in the IT field while keeping a part-time job at CVS pharmacy. Fast forward to 2011, I left my full-time job as IT helpdesk administrator, continued work at CVS, and returned to school at CSUF with a goal to become a pharmacist.
To broaden my understanding of the profession and prepare myself towards the path to pharmacy, I quickly got my license as a pharmacy technician and also started volunteering at a Kaiser Permanente Medical Center outpatient pharmacy. I also joined CSUF’s SHPA, which gave me many opportunities to hear directly from pharmacists and pharmacy students about the field and pharmacy student life. Through SHPA, I gained invaluable insights not only from pharmacists but also from a variety of health care professionals. I believe this to be very helpful because, as a future pharmacist, I will be interacting with various health care providers.
As far as the application and interview process, there is plenty of information already laid out on the internet. Dig in early to give yourself plenty of time because the entire process is very time consuming. Work on your personal statement ahead of time as it needs plenty of revising, and be respectful to ask for letters of recommendation with plenty of time as well. The primary application is the same for most schools via PharmCAS while the secondary application may vary for each school. So, the only trick is to learn the process for the school that you are interested in. For the interview, the setup may also differ between schools with either an individual or group interview. I can’t stress this enough but do prepare for the interview. The preparation will give you the confidence you need during the interview and it will overcome any nervousness that may come. And with confidence, you’ll be able to relax and actually enjoy the interview.
In closing, here are advices that I can share, drawn from my experiences.
1. Don’t get discouraged with the years it will take to finish school. If you are doing something that you love, the time spent will not matter too much because it becomes enjoyable to you.
2. Don’t be afraid to make changes in your life. Closing a door may show you the way to a new one. And as you close the door, put the past behind you, but carry the lessons with you and with every decision that you make, make it so that it takes you forward towards your goals.
3. Be open and willing to learn from other people. Their experiences can give you some of the best insights. Surround yourself with positive people both in your personal life and career choice, and don't hesitate to seek for their help. You'd be surprised there are many people out there who are willing to help. I didn't get to where I am now by myself. And someday, I hope to give back and be able to help someone else on their way to achieving their goals.
4. Lastly, through your experiences from your school, work, or volunteer, realize that in helping people, it is not only the knowledge and skills but also the care that you provide that adds meaningful healing. The path towards becoming a pharmacist, or any health care professional, is never an easy one. That’s a given. It can be complicated and exhausting both physically and mentally. But as difficult as the path may be, no doubt, it is truly rewarding.
Best of Luck!
Trexie M. Olivar
Class of 2014, California State University, Fullerton – B.S. Biological Science Class of 2018,
Touro University California – Doctor of Pharmacy