For Pat, finding your passion revolves around one key question: "Who is it you're trying to help, and what do they need?" Pat focused on this question when he worked in the emergency department at Stanford Hospital for a year before entering the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of California, San Francisco. Working the night shift gave him several insights into the important roles played by compassionate healthcare professionals. Something about interacting with patients and people in need—and offering them help—captivated him. He wanted to help them, and he knew they needed someone to sit down and talk to them about their health.
After completing a graduate degree in computer engineering, Pat spent 15 years working as a software engineer. After some time he realized he wanted his work to be more relevant and meaningful on a human level. He researched health careers and discovered the field of pharmacy. Knowing he wanted to remain in California, Pat began to investigate the School of Pharmacy and the history of UCSF. He explored the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum and was especially attracted to the Pharmaceutical Sciences Pathway. Everything sounded great. He reviewed the prerequisites to apply and was shocked—a few years of schooling stood between him and his goal.
Understanding the practice of pharmacy
One step at a time, Pat accumulated the necessary coursework and experience to prepare for pharmacy school. Now in his third year as a pharmacy student, he is working as an intern for the city's health department and pursuing the Pharmaceutical Sciences Pathway within the School of Pharmacy's PharmD curriculum. Pat came a long way from knowing little about a career in pharmacy to learning something new about it every day. Working for the city health department revealed to him the varied and flexible roles that pharmacists often play: "I respect just how much the role of a pharmacist depends on establishing relationships with others and understanding their challenges when it comes to maintaining health," he explains.
Pat has much more in store for him at the School of Pharmacy. Looking back, he is happy he chose an institution like UCSF, where he has so many options—from focusing on research to exploring a future as a drug expert. "I like to say that I've narrowed the focus of my career," Pat admits, "but in all honesty, I should say that I've just been opening doors and not really closing any since I got here."
A dose of advice
Pat will tell you that volunteering in healthcare was an eye-opening experience. His advice for students thinking about pharmacy school is to try to volunteer wherever possible. "Healthcare is about your relations to other people," he says. "Pharmacy school is science-oriented, but volunteering in healthcare will teach you something important—that at the end of the day, it's about the populations being served."
Photo: Joel W. Gonzales