Yang overcame language, age barriers
Many paths would have been easier than pharmacy school for Zhengguan Yang.
Yang, whose daughter Yi is a third-year biology student at Emory University and son Kevin is in eighth grade, is a Chinese native and the second oldest student in the 2017 graduating class. But still he took on the challenge of entering a professional degree program in a foreign language with students one-half his age.
“I thank all the faculty, staff and all my classmates who gave me lots of help during this process,” he said. “At the beginning, I never thought I could be successful in the pharmacy program, but now I’m almost finished. It’s my American dream to become a pharmacist in the United States.”
Yang earned a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from China Pharmaceutical University and practiced as a licensed pharmacist for four years in China before moving in 2000 to San Antonio as a visiting scholar. From there, he moved on to Galveston, Texas, for a post-doctoral position, followed by research opportunities at Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., and at the University of South Carolina, where he worked in the lab of Mike Wyatt in the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy.
His wife, Lixin Sun, a registered nurse at Prisma Health, encouraged Yang to continue to pursue pharmaceutical studies here, and he began by completing his pre-pharmacy coursework in evening and weekend classes. He said Lixin sacrificed to make his dream a reality, picking up extra hospital shifts to support their family while he was in school.
“That’s why I worked very hard to reach this point,” he said. “I want my family to know if you work hard in this country, you will be good.”
Yang said he would like to work as a clinical pharmacist in a hospital setting in the Columbia area.
“I like to help other people,” he said. “I want to use my expertise to help patients. A lot of patients do not understand medications, drug–drug interactions or how to avoid unwanted side effects. That’s why pharmacy can play a very important role in health care.”
“I’m trying to become the pharmacist the college wants us to become,” he said.
Yang said he learned a lot from participating in the college’s chapter of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International and encourages incoming students to participate in student organizations to find their niche. “I always got a lot of encouragement from upper class students,” he said.
“The College of Pharmacy faculty will help you. The administrative people will help you if you have questions so just talk to them. We are a pharmacy family”.
“It’s tough but a joyful process,” he said. “I look back, and I learned a lot from all the faculty and administrators.”