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Career Feature: Pursuing A Career In Pharmacy

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Many students who contemplate a career in medicine may only consider the possibility of becoming a doctor. Betsy Conway knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but she didn’t want to be a doctor. “I don’t have a strong stomach, so I knew being a physician was out,” Conway says. Despite her weak stomach, Conway’s desire to work in the medical field led her to the operating room – where she’s pursuing a career in pharmacy. After four years of undergraduate study and four years in pharmacy school, Conway earned her doctor in pharmacy, and now works alongside physicians as a Clinical Pharmacist in the operating room at Stanford University Hospital.

Working as a clinical pharmacist, no two days are ever the same – Conway is at the beck and call of the operating room. Her main responsibility is managing an outpatient surgery clinic, and ensuring that the clinics and operating rooms within the hospital have the medications they need. She manages and maintains quantities of the drugs that patients need before, during, and after operations. Conway also provides drug consultations for doctors who have questions about drug therapy for their patients.

During high school, Conway knew she wanted to eventually work in the medical field, but wasn’t sure what capacity that would be in. She began working part-time within a local drug store pharmacy, never knowing it would lead her to a full-time career. “That work was something I did just to make money as a teenager, but it seemed to stick, and I’ve done it ever since,” Conway says. “Most people don’t realize how many opportunities there are out there. Pharmacists don’t just work in a drug store. There’s so much more than just counting and pouring medicine into prescription bottles.” After experiencing firsthand the retail pharmacy setting, she learned more about her options and decided to pursue a career in pharmacy.

Conway spent four years at Western Kentucky University, where her schedule and curriculum were focused on science, especially chemistry. After graduating, Conway went to Mercer University in Atlanta for pharmacy school. There, she felt like everything she’d learned in her undergraduate studies was finally making sense. “Finally, I felt like I was learning stuff that I would use on an everyday basis,” Conway says. Any student interested in a career in any type of medicine should be prepared for a science-heavy curriculum.

Conway encourages students who think they may be interested in a career in medicine or pharmacy to learn all they can about the options that exist in this field. She points out that, because pharmacy has become so specialized in the last decade, there is a large variety of specialties in which pharmacists can work – there’s oncology, critical care, ambulatory, infectious disease, and more. Students can pursue a career as a pharmaceutical scientist, where they will discover, develop, test, and manufacture new medications in a laboratory setting. These scientists spend most of their time studying how various compounds and molecules interact within the body. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can work in hospitals, clinics, or a retail setting, and their main role is to dispense medicine prescribed by physicians and to monitor patients’ health. All pharmacists play a vital role in improving patient care and health.

In addition to playing an integral role in supporting the health of their patients, pharmacists enjoy a lot of flexibility. Conway says the best part of her job is that there is no set schedule, and she loves having that accommodating schedule. Unlike many physicians, she doesn’t work ‘round-the-clock, so she is able to enjoy a healthy personal life outside of work. Because every day is different, she also sees new challenges and learns new things all the time.

“Pharmacy has been an amazing career for me,” Conway says. “The sky’s the limit! I’d encourage any young student who wants to pursue a career in medicine to take advantage of any opportunities you have to learn more about the profession and thoroughly explore your options.”

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