Tell us about your work.
I am currently working at St. John's hospital as a Pharmacy Intern. In this role, I am in charge of making IV medications for patients using sterile methods dictated by USP 797. I also compound medications through non-sterile methods that are mandated by USP 795. Furthermore, I work diligently to pull medications for each patient in the hospital. Once I have completed my first year of pharmacy school, I will obtain my intern license which will allow me to expand my skill set. I will be gathering all pertinent information about a patient's drug use, history, and allergies as they are admitted to the Emergency room at my hospital.
What led you to this profession?
I knew that pharmacy was my choice of career after reading the book "The Spirit Catches You, and You Fall Down". This book follows a Hmong family and their struggle with the many barriers they experienced. Lia Lee, the youngest daughter of Foua and Nao Kao was diagnosed with epilepsy. Being new to the United States following immigration from the war-torn country of Laos, they found medical help through western medicine. Unfortunately, with the lack of interpreters, there was a huge miscommunication between physicians and parents between what each person thought was the "right thing to do for Lia". I found it heartbreaking knowing that both the physicians and parents were seeking to do what was right in the belief, but they ultimately clashed with each other. If somehow both methods of medicine were used, I feel that Lia could have had a much better quality of life.
What is your advice for current CLA students interested in a healthcare career?
My advice is to find a major that will help you become a well-rounded healthcare member. Although it is important to have a strong background in both math and science, it's important to remember that we should also have strong social science skills as well. What I appreciate about my CLA major is that taking non-science classes were a requirement - they really wanted you to become a well-rounded person. These classes challenged my mental capacity in a different way. Classes such as Medical Ethics, Geography of Health, and Bio-psychology really pushed me to view the world in a different lens.
How did your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during your undergraduate years help you prepare for your current role?
I currently volunteer at the Philips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC) in Southeast Minneapolis. This is a free, student-run clinic that is open to anyone within, and around the Philips Neighborhood. They offer basic medical services at no charge to patients and also has a pharmacy which carries common medicines. I also volunteer with Loaves and Fishes which is a non-profit organization that cooks food and serves it to the homeless for free. I also volunteer through my professional organizations to help screen patients for blood glucose and blood pressure levels for free at different locations as well.
What experiences did you have that confirmed your choice of profession?
While reading "The Spirit Catches You..." book, I could not stop but think of my own parents and the experiences that they went through. It so very similar and I remember growing up having to interpret for my parents at appointments. I grew up feeling ashamed that my parents always needed my help. It wasn't until I moved away from home that I began to appreciate my parents and their sacrifices they made to allow me to have the opportunities they dreamed of.
What kinds of obstacles have you encountered in pursuing your goals, and how did you overcome them?
As the first attend college, I lacked the mentoring and advice needed to navigate the collegiate world. I learned to apply for FAFSA on my own, apply to colleges online, search for majors and degrees, with no one to help me. This proved very difficult and for a long time, I felt lost and alone in these stages. But my parents were still able to motivate me to continue pursuing my education throughout each step which helps alleviate some of the stress. Not only that, being a nontraditional college student was difficult as well. Trying to balance being a full-time student and a nearly full-time worker was difficult.
What makes your story unique?
My story is unique in many ways - first, I am the first in my family to go to college and graduate. Second, I am a 2nd generation Hmong American student. Third, I am now a nontraditional student pursuing their PharmD from the University of Minnesota.
How have aspects of your identity shaped your experience in this profession?
Being a Hmong American, I see medicine in more than one aspect. I believe there is a physical method to heal ailments, but there is also a spiritual aspect as well. I strongly believe that blending the two is the most beneficial for myself. Therefore, I always advocate for progressive and inclusive medical treatments.
Is there anything else you would like to share with CLA students interested in health professions?
Don't be afraid to think that your CLA degree is "not good enough" to get into medical school, pharmacy school, or any other prestigious health career. If anything, being a CLA alumnus probably gives you a competitive edge. Not only do you have a strong science and math background, you also bring with you a different aspect of education. Nowadays, most schools are looking for a well-rounded person who can not only understand the hard science but be able to communicate with their patients effectively as well. Most schools will look at a person from each aspect of their application - classes, volunteer work, etc. So don't limit yourself by saying that your CLA degree isn't enough. I am proof that a CLA degree can take you to high places of education!