The Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony on September 12, 2015, held special significance for PharmD student Anthony Garcia ’18. For him, personally donning the white coat brought with it a strong feeling of being “a part of a family.” He expressed that to become part of Pacific’s pharmacy family is “why I’ve worked so hard.” Garcia explains that the ceremony marks “your transition from a student to a professional.” From his perspective, there is also a transition from an atmosphere of competition to one of collaboration. As an undergraduate the focus is on grade and selling your academic achievement. In contrast, as a professional there is a common goal to help people.
When Garcia took Organic Chemistry as an undergraduate, a course notorious of its level of difficulty, he approached the course from the perspective that he was going to conquer the course’s negative stigma. That course had a dramatic impact on the direction of his academic career. He became a Pharmacy Technician and later went to UC Davis where he studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
While at UC Davis he was introduced to the Pacific community as Pacific was a partner for several Medicare events. He chose Pacific’s PharmD program because he got the distinct impression that it was a “tightly knit” community unlike any he had seen at other schools. That impression has “held true” and he says that he has “formed really close relationships with other students.” Another factor that led him here was the recommendation of alumni. During his time as a Pharmacy Technician he worked with several pharmacists that had gone through the program at Pacific who expressed that “they valued their education here.”
He strongly believes that “if you have resources you should share them,” as your strengths can help support others’ weaknesses and vice versa. By coming to the doctoral program with a background in pharmacy he is able to approach his studies with a foundational understanding of pharmaceuticals, chemistry and biology. This allows him to help others in the PharmD program in unique ways. For example, when it comes time to memorize drugs he has the advantage of experience and is able to help his classmates study for that portion of the exam.
In addition to having a background in science, Garcia is able to use his personal experiences to shape his approach to patient interactions. Garcia grew up in very underserved areas. This unique perspective gives him the opportunity to teach his fellow students about the psychological aspects that affect those individuals who are from underserved areas. Garcia strongly believes that a pharmacist cannot provide the patient with the proper treatment if one has preformed judgements. He warns against being influenced by negative stigmas and having a mindset of expecting the worst from certain individuals. He emphasizes, “You will never find the underlying issue if you don’t have the sympathy.”
Addressing current and future students, Garcia’s advice is to find a good support base, people you can rely on. He says “don’t be afraid to look for resources, scholarships or support groups.” He thinks that a lot of people are afraid to ask for help. As a student not asking for help can make the process of earning your degree incredibly difficult; as a professional it could be very dangerous. He believes that “the only way to get through this profession and have a good time doing it is to find a support group.”
The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Douglas Hillblom ’77 PharmD, Pacific Pharmacy Alumni Association Alumnus of the Year, who currently is the Vice President of Professional Practice and Pharmacy Policy for Optum Rx. His many achievements include 2014 California Pharmacists Association Pharmacist of the Year. A very active alumnus, many know him as a supportive mentor and trusted advisor. Echoing Garcia’s sentiment regarding patient care, Hillblom said in his address that “Being a Pharmacist is not a just a job it is a caring profession where each and every day you can impact someone’s life.” Further, “the future is wide open for each of you, and your practice will be dependent on the goals you set for yourself and the risks you are willing to take.”
Hillblom urged the students to be leaders in their field. “Innovation and leadership are qualities that Pacific pharmacists have continually demonstrated as the profession and our responsibilities as members of the patient care team continue to evolve.” The Class of 2018 has already proven themselves to meet the School’s standard for academic achievement and commitment to the service to others. The 208 students were chosen from a competitive pool of almost 1,400 applicants.
Echoing the feeling of family expressed by Garcia, Hillblom shared, “As members of the Pacific family and specifically the Pharmacy School Alumni Association, never forget we are here for you as supporters and mentors.” Hillblom closed with “Welcome to the family, your future starts today.”
To learn how to contribute to the ongoing legacy of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences please go to http://bit.ly/PaHS60 or contact Nancy DeGuire at 209.946.2752. To learn more about the PharmD program go to www.pacific.edu/phs or contact Ron Espejo at 209.946.3957. For alumni interested in learning how to become a mentor contact Sarah Higgins at email@example.com or 209.946.2545.
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold