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Michele B Kaufman, PharmD '91

Healthcare Heroes: Michele B. Kaufman PharmD ’91, BCGP, Co-authors “The book I wish I’d had”

  • Michele B Kaufman, PharmD '91 has always been a career advocate. She works as a full-time hospital pharmacist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Lower Manhattan. Last November, with co-author Mary Choy, she published her first book, Healthcare Heroes: The Medical Careers Guide, a blueprint for young adults and anyone interested in health careers.

    Since graduating from MCPHS, she has participated in numerous health career events, including career days at local schools, colleges, and universities, and has mentored pre-professional and professional students. She is also an avid professional editor and writer, with over 300 publications. Writing a book to help others decide on their own best career path seemed like the next step in her writing career. We sat down with her to learn more.

    First off, tell us a little about your time at MCPHS!

    I got my PharmD at MCPHS in 1991; that was back when it was a post-baccalaureate PharmD degree. There were a number of professors at MCPHS I had good experiences with who were incredibly knowledgeable, whom I learned a lot from, and who were always looking to help us excel as young pharmacists and PharmD students...they gave me a great foundation in the profession. I’ve recently reconnected with two of them, Hannah Cooke Ariel and Suellen O’Neill. I had another professor there, Michael Shannon, MD (who also worked at the Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Poison Control Center) who has since passed. He was one of the physicians who taught toxicology, and we had to do a term paper for that class, and he pulled me aside and said, “Do you want to submit this for publication?” And my paper got published in a pediatric specialty journal1. Knowing which professors are still in touch with PharmD students is a testament to who they are, and their impact on the PharmD students while they were in school.

    The other individual who was really influential in my career path was Joseph (Joe) Scavone, who taught the research tutorial. He got me interested in editing and helped me with writing, so he was one of the springboards for my future writing career. At that time, we had to do a research project to graduate, so I did an IV compatibility study. Professor Scavone was my research mentor, and we worked very closely together on this project and he taught me so much about HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), and compatibility studies. This research was subsequently published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy2. That was my first peer-reviewed research article. That article has since been cited in the Trissel’s Guide to Injectable Drugs and by others, which is really quite an honor. So to have that honor coming right out of school was really cool, and being a young pharmacist, it was quite a “wow” moment for me. I was in touch with him but have lost this connection with Joe, but hope that maybe this article could re-connect us since he is also an MCPHS alum. I also hope this article will show him and others from MCHPS who mentored me how influential they have been in shaping my career. The value of mentorship is so important. Talented mentors created a great foundation for me to "pay it forward." In fact, I was able to teach and mentor others in HPLC and compatibility studies while working as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pharmacy at St. John's University in New York City, a subsequent career. For me, "paying it forward" is my mantra.

    Another positive experience from MCPHS is my close friendship with one of my classmates, Deborah DeMuria PharmD ’92. We published an article together3 while we were in our residency and fellowship training programs and continue to discuss careers and mentor younger generations of pharmacy students.

    I jumped a little ahead there, but after MCPHS I did a Drug Information Fellowship at the University of Rhode Island Drug Information Center/Roger Williams Medical Center, where I got to do a lot of writing, reviewing, and student mentoring. From there, I went on to be an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pharmacy at St. John's University, where I specialized in drug information and adult internal medicine. From academia, I moved into a managed care position as a geriatric pharmacy project leader and pharmacy case manager at the home office of a New York area pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). There, I created a Managed Care Pharmacy elective rotation for students in the St. John's University College of Pharmacy PharmD program.

    I subsequently worked for a medical education company as a medical writer and director of quality. In this position, I created a medical writing elective rotation for a local college of pharmacy curriculum and was a preceptor to students in the rotation. To this day, I continue to provide pharmacy expertise to this company. In my current position, I mentor pharmacy interns and new pharmacists, to continue to "pay it forward." Having also worked in geriatrics, I went back and got board certified in Geriatric Pharmacy.

    So tell us a bit about your book, Healthcare Heroes. Who is the book aimed at, what questions does it seek to answer, and how does it go about answering them?

    Along the way, I’ve had many students, friends, and colleagues ask about different careers in healthcare. I’ve given career-day talks to students ranging from college-age all the way down to elementary school, and my friend, Mary Choy, whom I met through our pharmacy society chapter, has done the same thing. Mary and I then began collaborating on more career events, peer-reviewed articles, and research projects.

    Book cover of Healthcare Heroes: The Medical Careers Guide.In addition, we had kids tell us they were interested in healthcare careers and ask where could they go to get more information? That got us thinking. So we started looking for young adult books on healthcare careers. We went into many stores, both large and small, and went through both the kids’, young adults, and career sections. We really didn’t see anything geared towards kids and healthcare careers! We continued this search online and we didn't find anything out there either, so we felt we had something different. We decided this would be totally worth pursuing together. We then had a brainstorming session where we started reaching out to healthcare professionals; we reached out to people who had inspiring stories and asked them if they’d be interested in writing a chapter for a book aimed at middle school students and up. As we were going through the writing process, however, we realized that the book could be used for high school students, all the way up through adults looking at shifting their career. To more carefully gear it towards young adults, we reached out to a group of 11-18-year-olds to read through it, give us comments… anything they felt would be helpful. We got really great feedback and incorporated that feedback into the book. Additionally, the book can help people understand the different healthcare fields and what each of the different professionals does. For example, the phlebotomist...reading about this career can help individuals to be less fearful of having their blood drawn. It can help people start to overcome their fears of going to the dentist, with more education about a dentist. It can help patients understand the differences between a Physician Assistant, Physician, Nurse Practitioner, etc., involved in their hospital-based or outpatient ambulatory care.

    A couple of things we did helped set us apart. We wanted the book to be fun to read, so we included some human interest information. We reached out to 26 different healthcare professionals, and they were excited to share their stories. We asked all our professionals to include salary information along with the necessary education, certification, and licenses. So right up front we include pertinent information; for instance, an orthodontist needs 11 years of school, so people can know that the profession needs that much schooling, but they can also make a quarter of a million dollars a year.

    We also asked everyone to tell us why they went into their profession. The stories were very interesting and heartwarming. Some people had a family member in that field; some had mentors early on; others had friends who were pursuing that career; while others had experience with that kind of health professional. 

    In addition, we asked each contributor to describe a typical day in their life. Some of our contributors are in non-traditional fields. Youngsters usually know about doctors, pharmacists and nurses, but even within those three fields there are so many different practice sites and specialty areas that a professional can choose. For instance, I went to (undergraduate) pharmacy school with the physician (who wrote the physician chapter) at the University of Rhode Island. She later became an osteopathic physician who teaches. So if you were expecting a day in the life of a doctor, her life might be a little different! Since she impacts students on a daily basis as an academician, her dual degree in healthcare brings a totally different perspective to the book. She is a professor at a state university, a clinician, and a Director of Medical Education at her clinical site.

    The dentist’s traditional day is what you might expect a dentist’s day to be like in terms of seeing patients, but you will also see the amazing community service he provided post-9/11. So you get a little bit of a different perspective on all these professionals.  

    The book has a good overview of the different ranges of healthcare professionals. It has something for everyone because everyone is an integral part of the healthcare team. We included professions from different educational requirements, from a GED with a certificate, to Associate's, Bachelor's, PhDs, and Doctoral degrees. Two very important professions that we included that save lives every day are emergency medical technician (EMT) and surgical technologist (OR tech). These two careers require specialized training programs.

    Tell me a little about the actual process of writing the book—what did you discover along the way?

    It’s a long process (over three years), and you have to really love it if you’re going to see it through. It’s great to have a partner to do it with, and so my advice to anyone who wants to work on a book is to make sure that you are enjoying the process. Mary and I are a really good team and we have become better friends through this process. Since you work so closely with someone, you have to communicate regularly and be honest. You always need a fresh set of eyes on anything you write.

    The contributors had agreed to provide the information about their healthcare profession. People are busy, and I found that that was probably one of the hardest parts—getting people to get the requested information back to us during the editing process. Throughout the editing process, we had to do a lot of research to learn more about the other healthcare careers in the book, including the specialties, practice sites, and requirements. This was really great because we are now better able to have an even wider impact on kids, since we know so much more about these different healthcare careers. It was great that it was a team effort, because it was a lot of work...but totally worth it.

    What was the publication process like?

    We put together a book proposal and submitted it to multiple major publishers. Some publishers responded with, “This isn’t what we do,” but some of them said, “This isn’t what we do but this is such a great idea, don’t give up!” You always believe in your own idea, but it really helps to receive validation from someone else. Those kinds of reactions kept us forging forward.

    We ended up going with Sigel Press, an independent academic press, over a major publisher. The editing process involved a lot of back and forth, but Sigel Press was very quick with responses to questions and issues, which was great because, I have to say, we really like the way the book turned out!

    There was a book launch held in late November in New York City attended by publicists, professors, journalists, friends, and colleagues. We honored several of our young adult peer reviewers with a signed copy of the book.

    How has the book been received so far? Have you gotten any interesting feedback?

    We’ve had a lot of support and fantastic feedback for the book! The user-friendly book, which has been called “a young adult’s personal career fair,” has been recognized by numerous schools, libraries, and healthcare organizations. A New Jersey high school science department chairperson purchased the book for all the students in their biomedical career academy, which is in partnership with Rutgers University. Students can get college credit for courses like Anatomy & Physiology starting in their junior and senior year. They can also take courses in Medical Terminology, Writing for the Health Professional, Introduction to Research, Nutrition, all kinds of interesting topics. She pre-ordered the books having only seen the preface, table of contents and a sample chapter. She was very effusive, saying that the book would fit so perfectly into their curriculum and that the book would help guide them into a health career. Their plan is to use the book in future academic years through our partnership to teach a series of workshops tailored to their specific educational needs. I gave two presentations to the students in that program during this past school year. During the presentations at the school the students were attentive and asked a lot of questions. A third workshop was planned but due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, this was cancelled. We are already in discussions about plans for the 2020-2021 school year.  

    Parents also really love this book—they were delighted by the information that it includes, the descriptions of the healthcare careers, and what their kids can do to prepare to go into these fields. That information was really helpful to them.

    All the healthcare professionals who we have spoken to have said, “I wish I had a book like this when I was growing up and trying to decide on a career.”

    The book has received many awards and 5-star reviews, including the 2020 Silver Medal from Reader’s Favorite for Non-Fiction: Occupational and the 2020 International Book Awards Finalist for Business: Careers and Young Adult: Non-Fiction. Midwest Book Review calls itThe first book … revealing steps to careers under the healthcare umbrella. Highly recommended…A ‘must have’ educational reference.” The book was adopted as part of the curriculum for the newly created, virtual, college readiness summer program that is a partnership between the New York Presbyterian Health-System/Weill Cornell Medicine and Pace University, in which we taught. The book was also incorporated into the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine's (VCOM) summer program for high school students. In addition, this past May we were part of the esteemed non-fiction author panel at the Missouri Association of School Librarians Annual Book Festival , and the book made a top 10 list of "Must Reads" for students for summer reading.

    On June 28th we were guests on Express Yourself! Teen Radio - Where Teens Talk and the World Listens on the Voice America Network. We were interviewed to discuss careers and how teens can stay motivated and inspired towards achieving their goals, always and during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also received 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite. One reviewer said: “Healthcare Heroes is an absolutely fascinating read with real insight from renowned healthcare professionals…it is literally like having your own personal healthcare mentor." The book also received a 5-star review from LitPick, saying, “Healthcare Heroes is such an amazing and easy guide for readers to quickly discover all the information they need for a healthcare career. It is jam-packed with up-to-date information; all high school guidance counselors should have a copy!”

    We created a website for the book. We have press and praise, events, and more information about us and the book. We also created a public Facebook page for anyone who wants to subscribe. We can also be reached on social media:

    What’s next for you?

    We hope our book will help many people find their career paths! It would be great to have it into the curricula for more colleges who have allied health, writing, and health science programs. We’d love to have every career counselor, guidance counselor, and every library (e.g., schools, public, educational institutes, hospitals, etc.) in the country have this book, because it will help inform students about all these healthcare professions. Guidance counselors influence kids at a very young age and help guide who they become. Therefore it is important that they are equipped with the best knowledge that they can have to help guide students. Librarians give kids (and older individuals) the tools needed to learn about their futures, so putting this book in their hands is also very important.

    I’m also working on a few ideas for new books.

    Anyone interested in buying a copy can do so through our website at: www.healthcareheroesbook.com

    Photo credit: Suzanne Fiore of Suzanne Fiore Photography

    [1] Kaufman MB. Portuguese man-o-war envenomation. Pediatric Emergency Care 1992;8:27-28. (inspired by: Michael Shannon, MD)

    [2] Kaufman MB, Scavone JM, Foley JJ. Stability of undiluted trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for injection in plastic syringes. Am J Hosp Pharm 1992;49:2782-2783. (inspired by Joseph M. Scavone, MS, PharmD)

    [3] Kaufman MB, DeMuria D. Corticosteroids in AIDS patients with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Ann Pharmacother 1992;26:932-933