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A dream deferred…and realized

Hammett earned nursing degrees en route to Pharm.D./MPH

Growing up in Jamaica, Yorika Hammett’s grandmother would send her into the woods to gather plants to treat her high blood pressure.

Seeing how those natural remedies helped her sparked Hammett’s interest in pharmacy, which grew in high school as she saw how people responded to the local pharmacist. 

“Many of the people in the community looked up to her as a role model,” she said.

Hammett came to the United States in 2000 to attend nursing school in Cincinnati. After earning her two-year registered nurse degree, she worked in the intensive care unit at the University Hospital then relocated to Sumter to be with her husband Emanuel. There, Hammett earned her bachelor’s of science in nursing degree online at Jacksonville University.

She worked as a travel nurse at Palmetto Health Baptist, then took a job at Providence Health because of her interest in cardiac care. Eventually, she wound up in the emergency department where she was reminded of her passion for pharmacy.

Hammett worked closely with physicians and other mid-level providers in the ED and would sometimes challenge their orders but lacked the background to present supporting evidence to prove her position.

“After working as a nurse for about 11 years, I decided to follow up on my lifelong passion for pharmacy,” she said. “I applied to USC’s College of Pharmacy to fulfill my life’s dream of becoming a pharmacist and was thrilled when I was accepted.”

For most students, the coursework alone in a Pharm.D. program is a full-time job. During Hammett’s first year, however, she worked 36 to 40 hours per week as a nurse while also commuting 45 miles from Sumter. When she started the program, it had been nine years since she had stepped inside a classroom, and she said it was challenging to get into the rhythm of school, taking notes, adjusting her family’s schedule and juggling her work schedule.

“By the second semester, I was able to develop a method and tweak it as it goes along,” she said. “I was enthusiastic about becoming a pharmacist and knowing that was my end goal.”

In addition to tackling the Pharm.D./Master of Public Health dual-degree program, she continued to work (36 hours or less per week) her second year at an independent pharmacy in Sumter and at the hospital, even precepting a Carolina nursing student’s capstone project in spring 2015.

She didn’t ease her load until the third year, when she cut back to working one week per month to keep up to date at the hospital.

And she did it all while managing the everyday responsibilities of parenting a young child, her daughter Emani, now 10.

Her schedule the past four years has been full: taking her daughter to school, attending class and working.

“You do what you have to do to achieve your ultimate goal,” she said. “I conditioned myself to achieve the goal I set out to reach.”

While it would have been easy to view the commute as another obstacle in her path, Hammett took advantage of the drive to relisten to her class lectures. And it wasn’t uncommon for Hammett to function on four hours of sleep per day, crashing on the weekends to keep going.

After graduation, Hammett plans to spend more time with her family and pursue a hospital-based career in clinical pharmacy.

Her advice to the entering first-year class is to get to know the faculty. “They are the ones who are going to prepare you for a future career as a pharmacist and provide you with recommendations in the end,” she said.