Student Pharmacist

Written by student pharmacists for student pharmacists, Student Pharmacist magazine provides the latest on career preparation, leadership, legislative activities and advocacy efforts, patient care projects, APhA–ASP Chapter innovations, life on rotation, tips from new practitioners, and more.

The misplaced passion of a superhero
Jamila Negatu
/ Categories: Student Magazine

The misplaced passion of a superhero

Mark Gilliam with his favorite superhero.

By Mark Gilliam

When I was a child, my best friends wanted to be superheroes when they grew up. I wanted to be a superhero, too. But the superhero I wanted to be didn’t wear a cape nor have an alter ego, although he did often wear a mask. I wanted to be just like my dad.

You see, my dad is a surgeon, and ever since I was little, I knew that he was doing the one thing that all superheroes do: he helped people. I knew I would never be able to fly or clear buildings with a single bound, but, if I were like my dad, I could help others.

Wait, now I love pharmacy

As I grew from child to adolescent, adolescent to teenager, my hobbies and interests were ever-changing. One day I might be obsessed with chess (6th grade) while the next I wanted to learn how to breakdance (9th grade). But no matter what hobby I became proficient at (chess) and those I quit after an hour (breakdancing), one thing remained constant: I was destined to become a surgeon.

When I set foot on the University of Kentucky campus as a college freshman, I declared a Biology major with my sights firmly set on medical school. It wasn’t long before I realized that most of my classmates had a similar dream. In an attempt to distinguish myself from my peers, I began looking for a part-time job in the health care field. Knowing that my father practiced as a pharmacist before going to medical school, I applied to every pharmacy that was taking applications. It wasn’t long before I found myself employed at a community pharmacy in a horse farm suburb of Lexington, KY.

My first few shifts as a pharmacy technician were amazing. I couldn’t believe it … was I really getting paid to count by fives? Sure, I had no idea what the medications were that I was counting, but let me tell you, I was really good at counting. It didn’t matter if it was a capsule or tablet, large or small, my super power was counting by fives. All of a sudden, I loved pharmacy. The more prescriptions I counted, the more experience I gained for my medical school application.

As I progressed in school, I found myself increasingly going through the motions as I continued pursuing medicine. I was passionate about helping people, and I was convinced the way that I could best help others was as a physician. I excelled in my prerequisites, but did so with less enthusiasm than before. I did well on the MCAT, but my excitement was lacking. What was wrong with me? My dream was within arm’s reach. What had changed? I found myself speaking to my father less about medicine and more about pharmacy.

Needless to say, my passion for pharmacy had increased exponentially. I learned about different types of medications. I learned about pharmacy management. And, most importantly, I learned how to help patients. I knew early on that as a pharmacy technician I wouldn’t be able to answer all of a patient’s questions. In fact, there was a lot I couldn’t do to help. But I could give the patients my full attention. I could offer to help in any way I could. And I could always greet them with a smile and be someone who would listen.

When all of my friends began applying for medical school, I was picking up extra shifts at the pharmacy. I buried myself in my work because it was easier than trying to figure out where my passion for medicine had gone. Ultimately, I decided it wouldn’t be worth applying to medical school until my heart was committed again. I would spend a few days reflecting on my experiences and everything would be fine. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years. I continued to work at the pharmacy, telling myself that one day soon I would apply for medical school. As soon as I could pinpoint where my passion had gone, I could get back on track.

Still like dad

Fast forward many years and I am now a final-year student pharmacist. I used to be so desperate to locate my lost passion. Looking back, I realize that I never lost my passion, instead, it was misplaced to begin with. My passion was never medicine, it was helping others. I was so desperate to become a physician, I was blind to the impact I was making on a daily basis. I was reluctant to embrace my calling.

Despite the ups and downs in my journey, I am finally following my father’s footsteps. I will never be the superhero surgeon that he is, but I can be the superhero pharmacist that he used to be.

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