Skip to content

Why I Went to Pharmacy School

Growing up, I didn’t think I’d go to pharmacy school. I thought pharmacists were decently comfortable in their lives but largely miserable in their jobs. I have family members in pharmacy and like many people, I only knew about work in the community/retail space. As I initially learned more about the career, I started to see a consistent and worrisome message: RUN away from this field. The hours are long, the breaks are few, and the people: oh the people. When I became a technician at a retail pharmacy in undergrad, I was able to see exactly what that meant. People can be mean and entitled – everyone thinks they’re the center of the universe. I saw how the pharmacist in high-volume community chains often became the scapegoat for other people’s problems. I can still remember some of the common phrases…

“Where’s my Adderall!” 

“What’s taking so long? Do you have my antibiotic, I need it NOW” 

“I’m not paying this much, I paid nothing last time. I want to speak to your manager!” 

Setting aside the lasting arrogance and self-centeredness of many people, I’m not saying these statements are inherently bad – perhaps you’ve said or thought them yourself. There’s a reason people need their meds. These statements represent a lot of the deeper issues with pharmacy (i.e. drug and staffing shortages, insurance deductibles/copays, miscommunication between insurance plans and patients). Still, when you’re a pre-health Bio major trying to figure out his career, that experience doesn’t look great. 

Honestly, I didn’t even connect that much with science or math growing up – I was always the kid who loved history and english more. I’ll admit it – I did get multiple Book-It Pizza Hut awards for reading the most books in third grade 🤓. On the other hand, math was my personal demon, made worse by the cultural assumption I felt unconsciously –  the idea that “Indians were supposed to be good at math.” While my church friends and cousins whizzed through their Kumon sheets, I just felt guilty when I struggled to find x. As I got deeper into my science classes, I started to warm up to the subjects and thought a place in healthcare would be ideal. It made sense financially as a secure field, socially to appease my Indian community, and professionally to “use my education,” whatever that meant. I grew up with these preconceived notions of success as something intertwined with having a career in STEM and healthcare. What’s really interesting is that my parents didn’t even push that mentality on me as much as my larger community did. There’s a lot to unpack with this and if you’re the child of immigrants, you might be able to relate to these expectations, but let’s get back to the story.

When people ask me why pharmacy, I tend to start my story off with  “I started undergrad in pre-optometry, but lost sight of the field. Then I dived into pre-dentistry, but couldn’t sink my teeth into that. Tried pre-physical therapy, but I just wasn’t feeling the motions.” Ba Dum Tss 🥁

Now there’s truth to that, despite the puns. Really, my experiences in undergrad focused on identity. I didn’t know who or what I felt called to be. Even though I connected more with psychology, I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I could handle the “harder” path of biology. I constantly judged myself against impossible standards, against people I thought I should be. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to hold yourself accountable to other people. To quote the famous motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.” 

The problem, at least for me, came when I didn’t give myself grace to also be myself. To forgive myself when I messed up and to believe in myself as my own person. 

So who am I, really? I’m a performer at heart. I did two major things in high school, the Academic Team (quiz bowl), where I acted like the person I thought I should be, and theater, where I put on characters to embrace who I really was. I loved the Academic Team. I was always terrible at it and really just knew a few bits of trivia on music or theology: not enough to actually be useful. I loved it because I could spend time with my friends and feel like I was part of something bigger, similar to playing a sport. There was also the fact that we got to skip classes and compete at different schools, then go to food courts for lunch, back when malls were still popular 😀. At the same time, there was almost nothing like theater. I’ll never forget the thrill of giving a good performance, of standing up in front of hundreds of people and just having a blast. My theater days gave me the confidence to be whoever I wanted to be, simply by putting on a new character. Even my time in church Sunday school elocution competitions, where I had to memorize and deliver speeches on religious topics, has helped me find joy and confidence in professional public speaking. I’ve learned to embrace my theatrical side within my professional side – I love giving speeches and presenting topics. While it might set me apart from a lot of my peers in pharmacy, it’s invaluable to my own identity. I’m also a runner, both physically and mentally. When that energy wall or cramp comes, I’m running through it for as long as I can. I take setbacks in stride and always try to move forward.

I did fall in love with pharmacy, not initially because I wanted to care for patients, but because I loved the way a pharmacist thinks. I’m a thinker at heart – seeing how the pharmacist just “knows stuff” about drugs in the community setting felt inspiring and fascinating. My defining moment came when I was in my Pre-PT “leg” – I was shadowing a physical therapist working with a patient who had an allergic reaction to allopurinol, leading to Stevens Johnson Disease (SJS). If you haven’t heard of SJS, it’s a reaction where the skin develops severe rashes, blisters, and starts to shed off…I wouldn’t recommend looking it up. As we were working on some exercises to regain mobility, I realized two things: physical therapists were essential and I didn’t want to be a physical therapist. All I could think about was the pharmacology and physiology of the patient and the drug. I wanted to learn more about what happened and understand how I could help prevent it. 

Thankfully, I learned to find happiness in almost any subject. I connected my love of the liberal arts to science and pharmacy by embracing and having fun with the learning process. I learned to use my theatrical side while studying and treat my notes like lines from a play. In a way that internally went outside the lines, I ironically ended up filling the box. I also became more passionate about promoting public health – I wanted to know how I could impact healthcare so that people wouldn’t have to experience allergic reactions like that patient did. In all of these academic or professional pursuits, I also learned that I don’t have to be someone I’m not. By connecting my passions with my career goals, I was able to infuse the two together. Somehow, and not on my own, I’ve done an okay job with it. I graduated summa cum laude in both undergrad and pharmacy schools and took on leadership all along the way. My path is still growing, but I feel content with where I’ve gone. I don’t regret my path and I’m grateful for the times I’ve shared with people. Now, it’s time to keep growing.

Do you have a similar experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

7 thoughts on “Why I Went to Pharmacy School”

  1. I am curious to find out what blog system you are using? I’m having some minor security issues with my latest website and I’d like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any recommendations?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *