I grew up in a large beach town in Middletown, New Jersey, where I spent my childhood playing sports and hanging out with friends and family. I talked a lot about my journey to pharmacy school in my previous blog post.
As I’ve navigated my way through pre-pharmacy and reach the end of my first year as a Pharm.D. candidate, I have started to narrow in on which specific field of pharmacy I want to enter, and more importantly, why.
Unfortunately, cancer has touched my life in more ways than one.
When I was twelve years old, my family lost my grandfather very unexpectedly to kidney cancer. My grandmother is a current survivor of breast cancer, and my other grandma, whose experience impacted me the most, suffered drastically from lung cancer and lost her long, hard-fought battle in 2019. To add to the ways cancer has affected my life, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with a rare carcinoid cancer at just twenty years of age, but thankfully has been cancer-free for over two years since.
These experiences cultivated my passion for health care and have sparked my interest in becoming an oncology pharmacist.
It was an almost peaceful feeling knowing that everyone there had a purpose ... I knew that I wanted to, one day, be part of creating that feeling.
I can recall the times I would nervously visit my grandma, who we called 'Shonna,' at the hospital when she was very sick. Walking through the center, it always struck me that there are all walks of life passing through hospital doors every day - the nervous medical residents following their preceptor through the hallways, a father crying on the phone because his wife just had their baby, a nurse getting off his overnight shift where he lost a patient, a family patiently waiting for their father to get out of surgery, and people like me, who were going to visit a loved one.
It was an almost peaceful feeling knowing that everyone there had a purpose, was somehow in need of or supporting someone in a health crisis, and that there were hundreds of staff members there to aid these people. I knew that I wanted to, one day, be part of creating that feeling.
During my grandmother's treatment at the hospital, I can recall the oncologist being one of her biggest supporters. Although a difficult time in my life, I learned to really value visiting her, and through that learned a lot about what it’s like to work in a hospital and really make a difference in the lives of patients and their families.
Every day, I leave the College of Pharmacy learning something new about the world around us.
As I’ve transitioned into pharmacy school, the organizations I am a part of and the courses I am taking continue to enhance my desire to enter the field of oncology. Every day, I leave the College of Pharmacy learning something new about the world around us.
This Spring semester, we took a pharmacogenomics course, which generally teaches students where genetics and medicine intersect. We talked a lot about how the genetics of an individual fighting cancer can be the key to their success, where screening their genome can quite literally give doctors and pharmacist instructions on how to best care for and tame their cancer types.
This was nicely complemented by a medicinal chemistry course, where we completed a unit on antineoplastics, a class of drugs that works to treat various types of cancer. All of this information combined increased my excitement about one day working alongside oncologists in cancer centers.
In addition to these courses, I'm an executive board member for the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Pediatric Pharmacy Association, and Phi Delta Chi Professional Pharmacy Fraternity chapters at USC. These organizations together have created a network of opportunities and have exposed me to what it is like to work as a hospital pharmacist, specifically in oncology. To date, I've had the pleasure of hearing from two oncology pharmacist guest speakers, and also have a professor who specializes in oncology. The University of South Carolina really does have the resources to make our dreams a reality.
Looking to the future, I am currently on the Pre-Residency track offered by the college, where I will learn more about the postgraduate residency process and its importance when it comes to working in a hospital setting. I also plan to take an oncology elective during my P2 or P3 year, where I can continue to advance my education. I also set up a shadowing opportunity with an oncology pharmacist in the Prisma Health System, an opportunity I am so grateful and excited for.
I can only imagine where we will be in the next decade when I officially enter the work force. It is my hope that 'personalized medicine' and technology will lead to a day where nobody has cancer, and that this day will be in my lifetime. My aspirations come from the way that cancer has touched my life in the past. I hope to do better by all my patients so that future generations won’t be touched by cancer the way that I have.