Alumni Spotlight: Kristine Wong, PharmD '18
What can you do with a pharmacy degree? A whole variety of things, it turns out.
What can you do with a pharmacy degree? A whole variety of things, it turns out. As pharmacist job opportunities expand, graduates of the MCPHS PharmD program are finding themselves in a variety of exciting pharmacy careers. Kristine Wong, PharmD ’18, can attest that clinical pharmacy in a hospital setting is one such career.
"There are a lot of different [pharmacy] paths you can take," she says. "Industry, specialty, home infusion....Second semester of first year is when I got really interested in hospital, or institutional, pharmacy. I learned from upperclassmen about residencies and working in hospitals. Being part of the medical team and making recommendations...I really liked the idea of that direct patient care and being able to contribute."
Her experience at MCPHS helped turn those career ambitions into reality. She says that guidance from her older peers was a huge help, especially in student organizations. She took leadership roles in Lambda Kappa Sigma, the ACCP (American College of Clinical Pharmacy), and Phi Lambda Sigma. These groups' "advisors gave a lot of advice," says Wong, "and we put on a lot of events with guest speakers in the field, either residents or clinical pharmacists to come in and talk to students about their careers. I learned lot from them about setting myself up for success."
After graduating from MCPHS, Kristine moved back across the country to her home state of Washington to put her education to work. Wong began a pharmacy practice residency at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington, a 270-bed, level III trauma community hospital. She passed her national and state licensing exams—she says her MCPHS PharmD coursework made it pretty stress-free—and even published a medication review in the Journal of Pharmacy Technology.
The next step in Kristine’s life after MCPHS brought her to Providence St. Peter Hospital and Providence Centralia Hospital, both in the state capital of Olympia. She splits time between the two—Providence St. Peter is a regional center while Providence Centralia is a much smaller rural facility—and covers a wide variety of practice areas.
"It really depends on the shift," says Wong. "Sometimes I'm in central pharmacy, verifying orders, dispensing medications, checking chemo and IV meds. The most exciting shift I have is the ER, where I'm in the department, available for questions for providers and nurses. If there's a code or a procedural sedation, I'll be in the room to help give the meds."
That kind of direct patient care is what drew Kristine to clinical pharmacy. But there was another reason, one closer to home, that made her want to pursue her PharmD in the first place.
"My family is first generation [American], and English is their second language. English is hard enough for a native speaker, especially with drugs—they're all so complicated. I like the idea of being able to translate all that so it makes sense for them." The ability to make something as important as healthcare a little bit simpler for her loved ones has been rewarding.
Familiarity with different cultures doesn't stop at her family, however. Being able to help all kinds of patients from different backgrounds is important to Wong, which is why the diverse MCPHS student body was a big plus in her eyes.
"We had a strong international student base, which I thought was really cool. It's important to expose yourself to people from different backgrounds and learn from them. That's an important thing in healthcare, because you're going to encounter all sorts of different patients, and getting diverse perspectives can help you take care of them better."
An MCPHS international rotation of six weeks in South Africa helped prepare her to do that. While abroad, Kristine performed community outreach about TB and HIV, as well as acute care in a hospital. She and others even went door to door to treat patients, because it could take years for them to see a provider otherwise. Getting hands-on clinical experience in a nation with 11 official languages was a vital step in learning to connect with different types of people.
The overall MCPHS experience—the PharmD classes, organizations, time abroad, networking—helped prepare Kristine to launch a clinical pharmacy career. And though her career is young, she does have advice for students pursuing jobs in clinical pharmacy.
"Start early, " says Wong. "Join organizations and build a network. My roles in a lot of organizations while at MCPHS helped me a lot in getting where I am."
Interested in pursuing a career in pharmacy? Learn more about PharmD at MCPHS.