"My greatest achievement stems from my greatest roadblock to date ... "
Posted on: February 13, 2020
University of South Carolina alumna Jordan Cooler (2016 Pharm.D.) fulfills her passion for helping others by serving as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Pharmacy and Psychiatric Pharmacist with UofSC Student Health Services.
Tell us about what you do:
My current role with the college of pharmacy allows me to work in two unique settings. At my practice site, the UofSC Student Health Center, I work under a Collaborative Practice Agreement that allows me to see students with mental health diagnoses such as anxiety and depression, in conjunction with a psychiatric provider. Additionally, I provide medication education for students interested in learning more about the medications prescribed for mental health diagnoses. This practice setting allows me to do what pharmacists do best – be the drug expert for our patients and the interprofessional team! It also allows me to teach fourth-year pharmacy students about psychiatric medications and their role in the ambulatory care setting.
Outside of my clinical responsibilities, I teach in the Pharm.D. curriculum, act as a mentor for students, and serve on committees that make decisions for our College.
How did you originally get interested in your field?
My original desire to become a pharmacist is similar to many pharmacists. I knew I wanted to help people early on and I had a passion for math and science growing up. During high school, I shadowed an independent pharmacist and enjoyed seeing how much his patients appreciated his role in their healthcare.
Psychiatric pharmacy allows me to get back to the root of why I wanted to be a pharmacist in the first place – to help people. And what better group of patients to advocate for, than those who are often stigmatized or may not be able to advocate for themselves?
Who has been a mentor to you?
My mother – she is the definition of working hard to succeed regardless of circumstances.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement stems from my greatest roadblock to date. During my fourth year of pharmacy school, though I had dotted all of my "Is" and crossed all of my "Ts," I did not actually match into Phase I of the ASHP Match. My initial reaction was to give up on my ultimate career goals. Through the mentorship of previous professors and preceptors, I applied for Phase II and matched into a PGY1 program, that ultimately provided the foundation I needed to apply and match into a top PGY2 program in psychiatric pharmacy. Coming back from the initial disappointment and feeling of failure after Phase I, making the most of the situation, and ultimately far exceeding my initial career goals is my greatest achievement.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
It's only right that my greatest achievement taught me the most important life lesson, and that is to work hard and never give up. That applies in so many areas in life – whether it's studying for finals, making career decisions after pharmacy school, or in other non-career/educational arenas (exercising for me!)
What do you do to relax?
I always make time to exercise an average of 3-5 days per week. I definitely feel more stressed when I don't have that outlet. Additionally, I love watching Netflix and other popular television shows (two words: Grey’s. Anatomy.), reading books (currently listening to Educated on Audible), and listening to different podcasts (especially Stuff You Should Know and Crime Junkies.)
What is your favorite memory from pharmacy school at UofSC?
Counterintuitively, my favorite memory of pharmacy school was the late nights I spent in the depths of Thomas Cooper Library (#TeamQuietFloors) with my friends from classes. So many moments were shared there – happy, sad, stressed, or excited – but the best part was being surrounded by friends who knew exactly what it meant to be “in pharmacy school."
What brought you back to UofSC as a faculty member?
So many of my achievements, life lessons, and professional and personal relationships began at UofSC so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Looking back 15 plus years ago, it never occurred to me that I would be a college professor, but after my experiences at UofSC with awesome professors who genuinely cared about the student body and were passionate about the career of pharmacy, I knew that if I ever ventured down the academia-route, the only place I would consider would be my alma mater!
What is your favorite subject to teach?
My absolute favorite subject is teaching antipsychotics and their use in schizophrenia (and other diagnoses.) It's always a topic I have to reel myself in to keep within the 3-hour time allotment! It's my favorite given the complexity of the diagnoses and the drugs used to treat them. It was this very topic in pharmacy school that helped me to determine my future career path. I love teaching students about the benefits of these medications and the difficult balancing act they have with side effects and adverse events.
What would your superpower be?
Definitely reading minds, with the caveat that I could control when I use this power. This would definitely be helpful at my clinical practice site when patients have difficulties describing how they feel, but I also think I could be a more effective teacher if I definitively knew my audience’s understanding of my material.
And then generally speaking, I just think it may be kind of fun.
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