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Jessie Valensi, PharmD ’15

Student Leadership Spotlight: Jessie Valensi, PharmD

  • Student Leadership at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) takes many forms. For Jessie Valensi, PharmD, taking on leadership opportunities at MCPHS has enabled her to create her own place — a home away from home.

    Jessie, who is originally from New York, serves as a Resident Assistant, an Orientation Leader, a Brain Cell in our Admission and Student Financial Services Offices, and is a student choreographer in the Colleges of the Fenway Dance Project.

    For Jessie, student leadership affords her the opportunity to give back to cause close to her heart. A member of Colleges Against Cancer since her freshman year, Jessie has served as co-president of the group and Relay for Life Chair, a role she will hold this upcoming year.

    In this interview, Jessie shares her moving inspiration for participating in Colleges Against Cancer and gives her advice for students looking to take on leadership opportunities on campus.

    Why did you decide to join Colleges Against Cancer and Relay for Life?

    I had decided to go to Relay for Life because my mother had passed away of Mesothelioma three weeks before I moved to Boston to start freshmen year. I felt so helpless because she had only been diagnosed six weeks before she passed away, and nothing we were doing was helping. I decided to go into oncology pharmacy to help families like mine, but that goal seemed so far away. I joined Relay for Life and Colleges Against Cancer because I wanted to fight back since my mother no longer could; she was barely even given the chance. This seemed like the best option. In my opinion, it still is.

    Tell us about Colleges Against Cancer at MCPHS. What type of campaigns do you take on?

    Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) is a nationwide organization that links college students, faculty, staff, and the American Cancer Society (ACS) in the goal to eliminate cancer by initiating and supporting ACS programs in college communities. The MCPHS branch helps plan and also participates in ACS’s Relay for Life event with other CAC branches in the Boston area. We also hold events for ACS’s Great American Smoke Out. Our branch also volunteers and participates in other events outside of ACS, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, the Pediatric Tumor Foundation’s Starry Night Walk and Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund Walk. We hold fundraising events on campus, and we also coordinate educational events monthly through our “Cancer(s) of the Month” program.

    During your time at MCPHS, you have worked with the executive board of CAC to create a Colleges of the Fenway (COF) Relay for Life team. This past April, the COF team participated in Relay for Life at Boston University. Tell us about the COF team.

    This year, we teamed up with Simmons College and Wheelock College as a company of 64 participants to fundraise for Relay for Life. Together, we raised a total of $7,380. We were the top fundraising company of the entire event!

    What is the significance of this event for participants?

    Relay for Life is ACS’s biggest fundraising event of the year. You join with a team, and you try to out-fundraise other teams. You vow to walk around a track for the entirety of the event with your team, meaning that at least one person from your team must be walking at all times. Our philosophy for the event is that cancer never sleeps, so neither do we.

    What does it mean to be a student leader at MCPHS?

    To be a student leader means that you want to help other students. Since I was very much still grieving the loss of my mother when I initially moved to Boston, I had an extremely difficult first year adjusting to campus life. It was the student leaders who gave me the resources and the support I needed to allow myself to be successful. I wanted to be someone who could help another student the way they helped me. I wanted to make it easier for others because I know how hard it can be. That’s what student leaders do; they make the transition to college life easier.

    Why is it important to get involved with leadership opportunities as a student?

    The college experience is so incredible and rewarding, but it’s also scary and new. Whether or not you’re living on campus or commuting from home, it can be difficult to find your place in a new setting. But here’s the trick with college. You don’t “find” your place; you make it! By integrating yourself into our school, you’re making our school into your own home away from home.

    Not only that, working as a student leader offers you a multitude of opportunities you wouldn’t normally be afforded otherwise. I get to work alongside the deans at our school, and they know me as a leader. They know me as someone who is trustworthy and hardworking and dedicated. Those are qualities you will want someone to attest to when you need to give references for jobs in the future.

    How will the leadership skills you have gained at MCPHS help you with your future career?

    I want to work oncology pharmacy one day. Cancer care is hard. It’s arguably the most difficult field of medicine right now. I will need to keep a cool head while under pressure, and I will have to be knowledgeable and quick on my feet in order to properly help my patients. You have to be comfortable with anything that comes your way. You have to manage your time effectively. You have to always be on your toes and be two steps ahead. These are traits I’ve learned through student leadership at MCPHS.

    How are other members of the MCPHS community impacting cancer prevention and care? Read about Tory Koch, Premed ’16, who volunteers with Dana-Farber’s Sun Safety Education and Skin Cancer Screening Program.