At the tender age of 10, Dennis left his hometown in Ghana and immigrated to the United States to join his parents. He remembers the experience as a fun and exciting opportunity, but he notes that it came with a set of new challenges. He faced a different educational environment in the United States, one in which teachers encouraged students to express their creativity—a stark contrast to the formal and strict learning environment he knew in Ghana. Despite some initial struggles, Dennis overcame a difficult adjustment period with the help of his parents and teachers and learned to thrive as a student.
For his undergraduate studies, Dennis attended Cal Poly Pomona, a university that offered him the opportunity to play soccer and remain near his family. A family friend introduced him to the idea of working in pharmacy, and considering his enthusiasm for the sciences, he began to wonder if pharmacy was the right choice for him. As a junior, Dennis attended a pre-pharmacy conference organized by LAPS, the Latino Association of Pharmacy Students, a group of student pharmacists from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “Attending that event provided me with a more in-depth look at the UCSF PharmD (doctor of pharmacy) program,” he recalls. He also met a Cal Poly alumnus who shared details about the impactful experience he was having as a UCSF student. These events pushed Dennis to consider his potential for a future in pharmacy. Soon after, he talked to a UCSF representative visiting his campus, and he began preparing for pharmacy school. He changed his major from accounting to biotechnology. He also sought volunteer experience at a hospital specifically in an inpatient pharmacy to confirm his decision to pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
Why pharmacy, though?
Dennis realized he had a great interest in the body’s metabolic processes. After volunteering in a hospital setting, he began to see the complexity of a pharmacist’s work and the integrative nature of prescribing therapeutic options and counseling a patient. “There are so many layers to treatment,” he explains. “I appreciate how a pharmacist needs to maneuver in so many different ways to arrive at a solution for a patient.” He can’t help but feel he’s found the perfect career for his personality and interests. “Pharmacy is such a great, dynamic profession. I’m happy knowing I can help others and support them.”
The start of pharmacy school demanded some adjustment, according to Dennis, but he credits the resources available at UCSF with helping him get through it. “It was a new environment, and my only exposure to pharmacy had been through my volunteer experiences, so it was a little challenging,” he confesses. “But I had to immerse myself. And it helped that I had wonderful classmates who never hesitated to lend a helping hand.” By his second year, the mix of courses, extracurricular activities, and pharmacy experiences made Dennis feel confident that he was in his element. He joined LAPS, the organization that helped him along his journey to pharmacy, and became part of the interprofessional student government at UCSF as well as a student-coordinated project focused on women’s health.
Dennis credits his volunteer work in a local hospital and his personal interviews of practicing pharmacists with helping him thoroughly understand the profession. When it comes to applying to UCSF, “don’t doubt your abilities,” he advises. “There’s only one of you. Feel confident that you bring something unique to the table.” When Dennis looks back on his application days, he feels grateful for the insight he gained from attending a conference designed to help prospective students. “You really have to research a career you plan to choose for the rest of your life—that was good advice someone once gave me.”
Lately, Dennis spends most of his free time exploring the city of San Francisco. After graduation, he plans to explore a few different areas of pharmacy. He’s leaning toward experience in a hospital setting first, to gain exposure to managing complex disease states, so he is interested in pursuing a residency to strengthen his skills. For now his interests include infectious diseases and sports pharmacy, but he knows he’ll be well-equipped with a versatile degree and a lifelong opportunity to be a clinician. “Things are falling into place along my journey … my work has meaning, and I’m proud that I can help others. That’s what makes me happy.”