More Notes from a First Year

Hello blogosphere!

Meg here. Remember how last time I posted I said, “Sorry for the length, it won’t be this bad next time because I won’t procrastinate and squish everything into one entry?”

I lied about that. I apologize in advance.

First exciting development to address: Thanksgiving break is only four short days away! I know everyone says this about every semester, but where did the time actually go? I’m only about a month from finishing the first 1/8th of my career as a pharmacy student!

Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit to do in that time. Last week alone we had a lab practical, our second drug delivery midterm, a pharmaceutical calculations exam, and a lab TBL. I won’t list what has to happen during the upcoming end-of-semester-sprint-to-the-finish-line because it makes me hyperventilate a little bit… but at the end of the race is a glorious month of nothing.

My poor brain and suffering workout schedule need it.

A few things I’ve done since the last time you heard from me:

Midyear Regional Meeting

This year’s APhA-ASP midyear regional meeting for region 5 (that’s us!) was in Minneapolis. I was a little leery about going; it would require an entire weekend down in the Cities, and I wasn’t sure if it would benefit me as a first-year. In the end, my friends and I decided it was too close for us to pass up (the location rotates by year), and I’m so glad we went; it was an awesome opportunity to learn more about the profession and meet future colleagues from all across the Midwest.

Highlights from the weekend included a talk on the provider status legislation, a residency expo, a CV workshop, and two social nights. The first social was Friday and had a “Great Gatsby” theme; one of my friends even won Timberwolves tickets in a raffle (there were some pretty awesome prizes, including an iPad). The second was at The Pourhouse; the entire second floor was rented out for us until about 10 pm, when the Halloween crowd started rolling in (the meeting was from October 30th-November 1st). I’ve never seen so many costumes; the people-watching opportunities were excellent.

All in all, it was a great weekend and I don’t regret going at all. Don’t be deterred by the entry fee – MPSA will reimburse you for it as long as you fill out the correct paperwork!


Future pharmacy students, a PSA: create an intramural team! It’s a great way to relieve stress, stay active, AND forge “friendly” inter-pharmacy rivalries.

For the first half of the semester, I played on an intramural volleyball team cleverly named “T-Rx.” The season concluded at the end of October and we needed something to fill up any ounce of free time we might manage to find, so we decided to form a broomball team.

Now, I hardly even knew what broomball was before moving to Duluth; I think its concentration likely dilutes the further you get from the Canadian border. But it’s pretty popular here, and after our first game I understood why: it’s fun!

For those of you who aren’t from around here, broomball is basically hockey without skates. If you’re really dedicated or, like me, prone to tearing ligaments in your knee, you can buy broomball shoes from Play it Again Sports; they’re basically big clown shoes with microvilli on the bottom. Then you put on a helmet, grab a stick, and run around on the ice trying to hit a ball into a net.

As you might expect, it’s pretty comical. As you might not expect, it’s EXHAUSTING. I was sore for three days after our first game. It was worth it, though, because we beat the other pharmacy team. That was basically my goal for the entire season (not a literal goal; I still haven’t made one of those, despite four very wide-open shots last Monday night).

St. Paul Children’s Museum

Last weekend I volunteered at my first “health fair,” down at the St. Paul Children’s Museum. Basically we set up four booths (on exercise, food choices, what a pharmacist does, etc.) in the museum and talked to kids and their parents about staying healthy. It was a lot of fun and re-validated my desire to specialize in pediatrics; I love kids, and there’s nothing better than breaking through a shy child’s “armor” and seeing them smile at you.

I was at the “What Does a Pharmacist Do?” station and spent all morning helping the kids drop alka seltzer tablets into food coloring to create mini lava lamps. I’m thinking I should suggest this as a future lab activity?

(I have photos but can’t post them because of confidentiality – I promise you they’re adorable)


This past Tuesday I had my last mentor meeting. I’m happy to report that I had a terrific experience with this. I met with her five or six times over the course of the semester, usually on Friday mornings before class. She works at Essentia, a health system I was pretty unfamiliar with before moving up here (I’m from the land of Mayo Clinic). It was very interesting to see the different types of pharmacies and learn about the opportunities I might have if I choose to stay in Duluth one day.

A quick plug for the mentor program – you get out of it what you put into it. It can be difficult to schedule because both you and your mentor are busy, but try as hard as you can to do it. I found it was most beneficial for me to do a few hours here and there; it helped me get a better idea of what she does (because she does different things every day). Also, bring questions! This is your opportunity to sit down with someone who knows the ropes and ask them whatever you want.

As I like to do at the end of posts (or rather, as I have done at the ends of my only two posts so far), I’m going to offer some advice to potential pharmacy students who are reading this:

#1: When you get your first S- (and every S- after that), do not panic. If you are anything like me (and I’m guessing you are), you will flip over your lab and see that little red circle on the left side of the paper and feel very inadequate. It will hurt especially badly when you realize you lost credit on essentially the entire lab for something like forgetting to document the name of the pharmacy on your label.


Don’t beat yourself up over it. You have (many, many) other things to do. You are a human, and humans make mistakes. You are also learning; that’s the point. Don’t let it keep you awake at night; instead, make sure you don’t make that same mistake again. Ultimately, that’s why we’re here, and that’s why the grading system is set up like it is.

#2: You will have hard days, hard nights, maybe even hard weeks. When you do, talk to people. Use the resources the college provides. Use your friends, from here or from home. Call your parents. And always remember a quote that I love: “The struggle will become your story.” These are the days you’re going to tell your children and grandchildren about. They’re the days you’ll be proud of, once they’re over.

Remember, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” A self-portrait, circa 2001, to prove my point:

Up North 010

To all the prospective students I’ve seen on interview days, best of luck and I hope to see you in Duluth next year! Everyone have a terrific Thanksgiving and enjoy seeing your families 🙂


Live Your Why

Hello everyone!

Sorry for not blogging in a while; as second years we are slowly accepting the universal truth that “life only gets busier as you get older.” However, even as life and school gets more and more crazy; it is always nice to get away for a weekend, or even a few hours to spend time reflecting about where we are and where we want to go.  I got to do this by attending the White Coat Mass in Duluth 2 weeks ago and the APhA-ASP MRM conference last weekend.

I found it amazing that at both of these events we talked about vocation and Live Your Why, and while they are separate ideas; they are very related to each other.  At the White Coat Mass, we had Sister Joan Marie Stelman speak about medicine as a vocation.  Most people when they think of a vocation think of the call to religious life.  As Sr. Stelman spoke about the meaning of vocation, I found myself thinking back to why I had decided to become a pharmacist in the first place. And I realized that my reason, as P.J. Palmer writes in his book Let Your Life Speak “had not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be.”

This was followed by MRM the following weekend; where we gained inspiration from this Ted Talk:

So how is living your why any different than responding to your vocation? I am finding that there is not any difference.  At the conference we talked about how our “why” should be those things that you enjoy doing.  And Palmer also writes of vocation that “True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.'”

So, to any future/current pharmacists reading this:

What’s Your Why?