"Make connections. Every rotation is an interview..."
Gamecock athletics alumna Chelsea Drennen (2019 Pharm.D.) turned an inspiring fourth-year rotation experience into a postgraduate residency and then full-time pharmacist position at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Drennen recognizes the influence and impact of mentors as a common thread throughout her journey.
Tell us about what you do:
I am an informatics pharmacist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I am currently Willow and Beacon certified. My primary roles include, but are not limited to, building & validating protocols in EPIC for go-live, establishing workflows for Clinical Pharmacy Specialists as we transition to EPIC, and working intimately with the Research team to ensure protocol build is appropriate.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A sports broadcaster (the next Erin Andrews), a chef or a professional soccer player.
How did you originally get interested in your field?
After graduation, I pursued a PGY1 and PGY2 residency. My PGY2 residency was in Pediatric Oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which allowed me to learn and network with so many individuals. At the beginning of my residency, I learned that St. Jude was planning to transition from Cerner to EPIC. As a student/resident who had only trained on EPIC prior to arriving at St. Jude, I thought it would be a unique role and opportunity to be a part of an electronic health record implementation at an institution that means so much to me.
Why did you choose the University of South Carolina?
I chose to attend the University of South Carolina because of sports. I grew up playing soccer and decided to continue my career at the collegiate level. When I arrived on campus for my unofficial visit, I knew UofSC would be my new "home”. I committed to play soccer at UofSC my sophomore year of high school and it was one of the best decisions I ever made! Aside from soccer, I wanted to attend a school that was in the Southeast, close to home (but not too close), and an SEC school.
Who has been a mentor to you?
I have had many mentors in my short time as a pharmacist, but Dr. Courtney Watts Alexander is one of the most vital mentors in my life. She initially sparked my interest in pediatric oncology as a P4 student while on rotation with her. Luckily I chose to pursue a PGY1 residency at the same institution, so she became my mentor for the residency year and helped design my schedule to ensure I looked competitive applying for PGY2 programs. Her connection with St. Jude also helped me as I decided to apply to their program. She is a great resource, incredible pharmacist, and even better friend.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Most of my greatest achievements are related to soccer—making it to the Elite 8 and winning the SEC regular season my senior year were extremely memorable achievements. One of my most memorable pharmacy achievements was being able to present at ASM Microbe with the help of Dr. Bookstaver.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I am a big 'crossfitter' now that my soccer days are over. I also enjoy hot yoga, pilates, and Bikram. I am currently training for a sprint triathlon. Anything active and being outdoors. I also have a golden retriever, Walker, who I spend many afternoons with.
What skill would you love to master?
Golf or tennis.
What is your favorite memory from pharmacy school at the University of South Carolina?
This is tough, but I truly enjoyed the Career Mentor sessions we had. I believe this allowed a young pharmacy student to hear stories and be able to relate to different pharmacists. It also helped drive my career and pushed me to want to be a great mentor for young pharmacists to come.
What class or professor do you remember the most?
Pediatric Pharmacotherapy with Dr. Christina Cox was the most memorable. This was my first pediatric focused class, which is something I knew I had a passion for. It opened doors for me to be able to work at the Children’s Hospital in Columbia and learn about specific pediatric diagnoses that aren’t a part of the normal curriculum.
What is your advice for current students / future pharmacy professionals?
Take advantage of all of the unique opportunities the College of Pharmacy provides for you. Hearing other colleagues talk about their pharmacy school makes me so proud to be an alumni of UofSC. Also, make connections. Every rotation is an interview 😊
What song always puts you in a good mood?
'Do You Believe in Magic' by The Lovin’ Spoonful.