Pharmacy Pre-Grad Intern Andrew Thach
This semester I interned with Dr. Carolyn Brown, a Professor in the department of Pharmacy Administration of the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Brown's research interests primarily involve understanding cultural and social elements that may impact both quality of care and therapeutic outcomes of patients with chronic illnesses, particularly ethnic minority patients who experience a disproportionate burden of poor health. Her research program focuses on patients' treatment decisions, particularly as it relates to use of prescribed medications and complementary and alternative treatment practices. Additional research interests include patient satisfaction with pharmacy care services and pharmaceutical education of ethnic minorities. I began participating in research with Dr. Brown last year by helping her with various projects that she had going on. As part of the IE program, I was able to conduct my own independent research project under her advisement. Having Dr. Brown as a mentor, while participating in the IE program, really allowed me to get a great understanding of myself, what graduate school is about, what it takes to succeed in graduate school, and how to get there.
The independent research project that I conducted was titled, "Consumer Perceptions About A Community Pharmacy-Based Medication Take Back Program". This semester I finished where I left off last semester. I completed the data collection at the study site and my advisor helped with the data analysis. After the data was analyzed, I proceeded to write the results, conclusions, and prepared the research poster. I started this project at the beginning of the fall semester, so it was a great relief to see the results finally in. Currently, I am continuing to do a literature review, so that I can supplement my original background information. In addition, I am writing a more thorough results and conclusions section, so that the study can be published in a journal.
Through the IE program, I was given the opportunity to travel to Seattle, Washington to present the results at the American Pharmacist Association Annual Conference. This was an intimidating experience, because I believe I was the only undergraduate student presenting research. The other presenters included pharmacy students, graduate students, and professors. Last year, I helped a pharmacy student present her work at the same conference, but in Washington D.C. Although the experience from that conference gave me some confidence, it was still very nerve-wracking knowing that I wouldn't have someone by my side to back me up. During the presentation, I really did feel like the expert, because the research I was conducting was very unique. It was a great feeling to be able to give people with so much knowledge information about something they were not familiar with. I was asked a few difficult questions, but I think it was a great challenge that helped to stimulate my might and make me think with more depth into the topic. One of the most memorable experiences at the conference was after having a long conversation with a professor; he asked if I could email him a copy of the research poster. It truly made me feel like all the hard work that went into the research project was meaningful.
One of the greatest things about the IE program is that it forces its interns to learn about themselves. For the past few years, I've had this narrow goal in mind to attend pharmacy school. I really did not consider any other options. I am grateful that I was able to interview various professors in the College of Pharmacy. I told many of them that I was interested in a career in academia and research and they gave me great advice on how to get there and things to consider. It was great hearing their personal stories on how they got to where they currently are in their career and it gave me hope realizing that most of them did not follow their original path they intended.
One of the highlights of the I.E. experience was being told by a professor in the College of Pharmacy that she sees my passion in research and I should go straight into graduate school. I was in shock when I first heard this, because I had never considered graduate school as an option. After this experience, I researched more into graduate programs and what I needed to do to get there. I was able to consult with my mentor and she told me that I could attain my goals much faster if I went directly into graduate school than going to pharmacy school first. I was also able to consult with graduate students in the College of Pharmacy. I was given sound advice on the pros and cons of getting my Pharm.D prior to entering graduate school versus going straight into graduate school. I felt that the graduate students' advice was very valuable, because I was able to ask students that were following different routes the same questions to get different viewpoints.
My current goals compared to my initial goals when I began college are now very different. I really learned that I would enjoy my career much more in an academic setting than practicing as a pharmacist. I am truly grateful that I was able to realize this before beginning a very rigorous four years of pharmacy school. I am currently preparing myself to apply for graduate school in the fall. I plan to use the resources that are provided by the IE program to learn more about graduate school and the things I need to consider. In addition, I now need to prepare to take the GRE instead of the PCAT.
I learned so much about graduate school and myself through the IE program. I've been given the opportunity to meet and network with the most successful people that are doing the things I dream of doing. In addition, I've been given the opportunity to receive advice from and express my interest to the professors that I will be interviewing with as I pursue graduate school. The IE program has made me more confident in knowing what I want to do after completing my undergraduate work.