Richard spent the first 17 years of his life growing up in Hollister, California, a small town 90 miles south of San Francisco. His parents, immigrants from the Azores Islands and Mexico, relocated to the small agricultural town in the 1960s and have lived there ever since. "It's always refreshing to visit my hometown, where you can't go to the grocery store without seeing at least one person you know," Richard says.
Making a difference
Growing up, Richard remembers feeling driven to make a difference in his community. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout during high school—no small feat—and implemented an irrigation project for a local elementary school as his service project. After becoming a dedicated student at the University of California, San Diego, he continued to find ways to make an impact: he served as a campus tour guide and founded a chapter of his fraternity on campus.
While a student at UCSD, Richard majored in biochemistry and cell biology. "I liked the combination of biology and chemistry the major offered ... when I was thinking about majoring in science, I knew I wanted the whole picture," he explains. At one point in his undergraduate career, Richard recalls facing challenges in a chemistry course and considering changing career paths altogether. Fortunately, a college counselor put him back on the right track: "If it wasn't for that person, sitting me down and telling me, 'We'll get you where you want to go,' I don't know where I'd be right now." Once settled into his pre-health curriculum at UCSD, Richard sought opportunities to gain pharmacy experience. He eventually found a position at a community pharmacy. Even though it was a challenge to brave San Diego traffic, he knew the importance the experience could afford him. "Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get where you want to go."
Richard began an internship with Safeway Pharmacy in May of 2009, helping pharmacists with consults, advising patients on the use of their medications, and counseling customers on over-the-counter drugs. "It's been a good learning experience for me. It's made concrete the concepts I've learned here in the curriculum, and I'm still in awe. There's a lot more to learn, but even with the year and a half of school I've had so far, I've been able to make a positive impact in people's lives. To be in pharmacy school less than 2 years and already feel that appreciation from patients—that lets me know I've chosen the right path."
A dose of advice
"Don't lose focus on what you want to do." When he was applying to pharmacy schools, Richard invested time to reflect and really prepare himself for his next steps. He encourages students to take time to understand why they want to become a pharmacist. "Always remember your reason for choosing pharmacy and the positive impact you will have on the health of those in your community. This will make all those applications worth your effort."
Photo: Joel W. Gonzales