Becoming a Pharmacist… and a Minneapolite

Hello everyone! Before I dive into my experiences of “Becoming a Pharmacist” (which is  just the title of our orientation course- I have not completed this process yet!) I would like to spend a moment introducing myself.  My name is Hilary, and I am a first year pharmacy student on the Twin Cities campus. About a month a half ago, I dragged way too many bags off a plane from Northern California, ready to begin my new life in the Twin Cities.  At that time, I had such a complex combination of emotions; excitement of all of the experiences I would have and people I would meet, nervousness about the thought of having to navigate the public transportation system of a city I knew very little about, disbelief that I really would not be face to face with my California friends and family for several months and just a tad bit of annoyance at myself for my regretful packing decisions …. in that, why did I think it was a good idea to bring four giant bags on the plane when I only have two hands?

For better or for worse, all those pent up emotions indeed materialized….  I definitely miss my home at times, I definitely have had quite the time learning the ins and outs of the metro transit system (which is now on my good side), but I have MOST definitely and importantly met so many amazing people, learned so much, and had so many fun experiences already.  I am completely confident that I could not have chosen a better fit for this next chapter of my life. Since we all know that a picture is worth 1000 words, I think that pictures (and maybe a few words) are the only logical way to do this first blog post since I need every word I can get! Here is the best of my short time as a Minneapolite (I don’t even know if that is a word, but I’m goin’ with it).

NATURE!!!: I’ll start by just making a quick plug for the natural beauty of the city of Minneapolis.  While just about every person I meet who learns I am from California likes to promptly remind me of how much “fun” I will have in the coming winter months, I am so grateful that the impending doom of the winter months is counteracted by the abundance of trees, lakes, waterfalls and trails in the summer months that I can enjoy .  I love going out on runs, so having the ability to run by these sights like  Minnehaha falls rather than the empty farm fields I am used to makes every run just that much more enjoyable.  I also find it funny that MinneHAHA literally means “laughing water”…. I guess that sort of makes sense, right? haha.  The righthand photo is the view from the 8th floor or the hospital: a view well worth the trek up there!

Photo Jul 20, 3 04 46 PM Photo Jul 20, 2 37 56 PM Photo Jul 28, 12 36 53 PM (1)


FOOD!!: On the other hand, I have loved eating back the miles I run at the many delicious bars and restaurants in Minneapolis .While anyone from the midwest would not understand why the  righthand picture is significant, I just wanted to document the first plate of cheese curds I ever ate.  Apparently I have been deprived, living a life without these delicious bites of fried, cheesy goodness. I’m pretty sure I promised some people I would wait for the state fair to have the so-called “best” cheese curds, but I cheated a bit…… they were way too tempting on the happy hour menu!

Photo Jul 16, 8 21 24 PM

A historical moment; my first plate of cheese curds

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Another Minneapolis Gem: Sporty’s Bar “Hypocrite” burger. It is a veggie burger covered with bacon and pulled pork… nom nom nom.



WORK!!:: So at this point it probably looks like I just spent the summer bumming around, eating cheese curds and getting in touch with nature, but I actually spent most of my time training and working as a pharmacy technician/intern at the University of Minnesota Medical Center Inpatient pharmacy though the Pharmacist Development Program (PDP).  Because most students primarily have retail pharmacy experience upon entering pharmacy school, the PDP is unique in that it gives students a glimpse of clinical pharmacy in an inpatient pharmacy setting.    U of M students are so lucky to have a world-class academic medical center like  Fairview literally connected to Weaver-Densford Hall, the  building with most of our Pharmacy classes. The opportunities for work, mentoring and shadowing experiences are endless!

The some five daylong training days  (with very generously long lunch breaks!) before official work started also served as a bonding experience for me and the seven other classmates I trained with; not only was it so nice to already have friends before school even started, but my directionally-challenged self heavily relied on everyone to find my way around the tunnel maze that is the mega-building of the Hospital, Phillip-Wangensteen Building, Mayo building and Weaver-Densford Hall .  I guess you could say my time navigating these tunnels (along with all the time spent underground in the central pharmacy) let me embrace my inner-Gopher.

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That awkward moment at the hospital when you become a surgeon….. (more like that super stupid moment you wash you scrubs with a red pen in the pocket!)


My fellow PDP trainees out of our normal hospital environment at a delicious Thai food restaurant


SCHOOL!!: I am grateful that I got some time to adjust to work and living in the cities, but I am glad  that school has started since I suppose getting my PharmD is the point of all of this!  Thankfully, the college tries to orient students for a successful time in the program with the three week “Becoming a Pharmacist” course. The course is part of the new integrated curriculum; the new curriculum is just another example of the college’s constant innovation and goal to equip students to succeed in pharmacy both now and in 10, 20, or 30 years down the road!

Luckily, we have not just been in the classroom the whole time. For instance, last Tuesday we went to a retreat with our fellow Duluth classmates at the Audubon Center in Sandstone, Minnesota.  My midwest sense of Geography is pretty atrocious but I do know it is a site somewhere in between the schools. It was great to put faces to the students at Duluth, since we will see their faces on a TV screen almost everyday  during our dual class sessions. The retreat was complete with leadership activities, clinical case discussions, a delicious lunch and a very inspirational talk from Tracy Anderson-Haag, a clinical pharmacist at Hennepin County Medical Center.


It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Hogwarts??


Team Flamingo!

The other  memorable experience of the week was our “Bus Trip” on Thursday. Our class of just over 100 was divided up into five groups and each group visited a different clinic and community site.   A main emphasis of the trip was to understand how important it is for the pharmacist to understand the culture, language and economic status of his or her patients, especially  in underserved populations. My group attended the Bethesda Family Medicine Clinic and the Phalen Pharmacy in Hmong village, both sites  serving a large Hmong Population. Through presentations from a physician, a pharmacist and an interpreter at Bethesda, we learned the importance of inter-professional collaboration to best serve this unique patient population.

Later, we went to a very successful independent pharmacy in Hmong Village called the Phalen Family Pharmacy; the Phalen Pharmacy is an excellent model of an independent pharmacy that thrives by finding a niche population.   The pharmacists at the Phalen Family Pharmacy are very passionate about serving the members of the Hmong community and their efforts are recognized by the community members who are very loyal to the pharmacy; this small pharmacy fills 400-600 scripts a day!      Afterwards, we got to explore the food stands, farmers’ market and shops in the Hmong Village to fully soak in the culture…..some of my classmates even made it big and got interviewed to be Hmong TV!

Photo Aug 21, 12 58 08 PM Photo Aug 22, 1 09 35 PM (1) Photo Aug 21, 12 51 10 PM


Anyways, I think that sums up most of my “becoming a pharmacist” experience so far.  For anyone who actually read all this, kudos!  I think I am  over the word limit. I guess I should do some homework now.  Adios!

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