Monday, May 1, 2017

Student Leadership Advisory Board Spotlight: Rebekah Lee, UVA ‘18

Q: As a pre-pharmacy student, how have you prepared yourself for pharmacy school?
A: Last year, I worked at Kroger Pharmacy on Hydraulic Road as a Pharmacy Technician. This is a retail environment and generally what people think when they hear the term “pharmacy.” Most of my time was spent filling orders for patients. There were also other tasks like restocking and keeping inventory as well as providing customer service for the counter and drive-through. Pharmacy involves a great deal of patient interaction. I currently volunteer at the Charlottesville Free Clinic where I am also a tech completing similar tasks but for an underserved population. I personally find volunteering more rewarding and the atmosphere is one that fits my personality better.

Q: What training did you receive to be Pharmacy Technician?
A: In order to be a Pharmacy Technician, you must be licensed. In order to be licensed, you would need to take an exam that includes information on technician responsibilities, state laws, and pharmaceutical names. If you work at a pharmacy, they will give you nine months from your employment date for you to get your license and most places will have modules or a teaching system that will equip you with the right information for you to pass your exam. Kroger will even reimburse you for your exam if you pass! At Kroger, I received hands-on preparation and learned by doing throughout my training period. I now volunteer at the Charlottesville Free Clinic and they have a special (free) program online where you can complete modules that will teach you everything you need to know for the state exam.

Q: What should future students expect to encounter if they are looking for a retail pharmacy position.
A: You should expect to always be on your feet and ready to go. Pharmacy settings from the outside might look really slow and boring but when you’re working, you’re always active. If you’re not helping patients with picking up their prescription at the counter or drive-through, you’re filling the other orders for the day so it’s crucial for you to be flexible with your work because sometimes you have to stop midway with an order to assist a patient who is checking-out.

Q: How did you even get the Pharmacy Technician job in the first place?
A: I went on to the Kroger website for new hires and made an account. Then I submitted my application and resume and received an email followed by a brief phone interview. After the interview, I completed a background check and education modules to learn about Kroger as a company and their policies, and then began to work in the pharmacy. I was very fortunate they were looking for new hires (they still are at Hydraulic!).

Q: If I’m on the pre-pharmacy track, should I be a chemistry major or biology major? What major should I be?
A: Honestly, it doesn’t matter – you can be an art major or even a linguistic major (like my big in the Pre-Pharmacy Society was!). As long as you fulfill the pre-requisites that the pharmacy school you want to apply have, then you’re set! Most pharmacy schools have the same pre-reqs, although the upper-tier schools often require a second semester of physics. Other unique classes outside of biology major includes Economics (micro or macro) and Public Speaking.

Q: Do I have to finish all my prerequisites before I apply for pharmacy school?
A: Ideally, you want to complete all your pre-requisites before applying to pharmacy school. Some schools will still consider you a viable applicant if you have one or two pre-requisites in process when you apply. If you are going to take pre-requisite coursework your fourth year, schools will work with you as long as your previous academic record was consistent. Some students will even take summer classes (mostly for classes unavailable at UVA such as public speaking), but the school must see that you have displayed a consistent academic record with the previous pre-requisites.

Q: When do people usually apply for pharmacy schools? Is it normal to take bridge years?
A: If you’ve prepared for pharmacy school since your first year, it’s realistic to apply the summer after your third year. For students who discovered pharmacy later in their undergraduate years, a bridge year is more likely. The application process begins in the summer (PharmCAS generally opens in July) and continues into the fall and spring. Most students take the PCAT (your entrance exam for pharmacy school) the summer you are applying. Everyone will have a different journey through the application process. Applying when you are realistically the strongest applicant possible is ideal!

Q: Any last tips?
A: Be diligent in your studies but don’t over-worry or stress. As long as you do your best and build good habits everything will fall into place on its own. Someone told me once that habits will follow you for the rest of your life and because it’s hard to break habits, it is very important to build good habits right now as an undergraduate.

Rebekah Lee is a 3rd year pre-pharmacy student in the College majoring in Biology. She is the President of the Pre-Pharmacy Society and a member of the Pre-Health Student Leadership Advisory Board. Music and writing are two of her passions, and she works at the Music Building. Another hobby Rebekah has is tennis both playing and watching men’s tennis (no. 1 in the nation- wahoowa!).