Through the looking glass
In 2020, Martin Bailey was on the other side of the patient care experience. He persevered through the pandemic and is ready for a brighter 2021.
If you’ve ever seen a commercial about Humira, chances are you’ve probably heard of ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn’s disease (CD). I was diagnosed with UC at age 11 when I was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital (LLUCH) in the early 2000s.
What I did not know at the time was that Loma Linda University (LLU) would come back into my life in two big ways: I’d be working for Loma Linda University Hospital (LLUH) and attending the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy (LLUSP).
My journey to pharmacy school has been nontraditional, partly because of my autoimmune disease. However, another hospitalization in 2011 pushed me toward pharmacy, and I became a certified pharmacy technician just a year later. I then wanted to pursue a PharmD, but part of me held back after I received my BS in bio-health science because I knew how the stress could affect my body if my UC flared up. Though I still applied to pharmacy schools, I was not accepted into any programs.
As time passed, I realized I had only community pharmacy experience and no training in the hospital setting. After submitting many applications, I interviewed for an I.V. room compounding pharmacy technician position at LLUH.
During the interview, Dan Kardasinki, PharmD, director of pharmacy operations, asked, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I answered, “Hopefully finishing up pharmacy school.” He replied, “There’s one just down the hill.” Andrew Carroll, PharmD (now my supervisor), told me, “We work with our employees’ schedules when they go to school.” At that point, my UC was controlled, I was off medication, and I was probably at my healthiest.
Fast forward to 2018, when I was a first-year student pharmacist facing a steep learning curve at LLUSP. I had been out of the classroom for 2 years already, and I was struggling. Despite regular visits to the gym, I felt the familiar symptoms of a UC flare-up and resumed maintenance medications. I asked myself, “What if this current medication regimen isn’t enough?” But for the rest of that academic year, it sufficed.
During my second year, I attended the 2019 APhA–ASP Summer Leadership Institute and left ready to tell my fellow student pharmacists why they should join APhA–ASP—“the buffet” of pharmacy organizations, as APhA President and LLUSP Dean Michael Hogue calls it. I challenged myself and ran for a regional officer position at the 2019 APhA–ASP Midyear Regional Meeting, and I was elected Region 8 Member-at-large!
Later that semester, I was concerned about symptoms similar to those that sent me back to the hospital in 2011, but I pushed that aside.
An informed patient
During the second week of winter break last year, I was admitted to LLUH because of complications with my UC and was newly diagnosed with CD. During my hospitalization, several colleagues, professors, and friends reached out or visited me. In hindsight, I am grateful that I could even have visitors, given the current visitor restrictions due to COVID–19. My first visitors were fellow APhA–ASP Chapter members Tony Kim and Kailee
Severt, both of whom are intern pharmacists at LLUH.
It was interesting being on the other side of the patient care experience with all the knowledge I gained from my courses. I remembered my medical team saying that my potassium levels were low, 3.1 mEq/L. Under my breath, I mentioned that I should get 40 mEq/L of potassium chloride. The physician who heard me asked if I was a medical student, but I pointed to the shirt I was wearing with the LLUSP logo and proudly said “pharmacy.” There were a couple “oohs” after that revelation.
With my new CD diagnosis, I advocated for the appropriate tests, screening, and care I needed in the same way I advocate for my own patients at work. On Christmas day, I got the surgery I needed and headed back home to recover later that week.
As a new term started in early 2020, I was fighting a different battle: recovery. After speaking with my academic dean, Kyle Sousa, PhD, I decided not to take a medical leave of absence like I did back in 2011. Sousa and the faculty gave me the support I needed to carry on and finish my second year, despite my personal health crisis.
Medicinal chemistry and pharmacology lectures became very interesting because we discussed topics that really hit home: immune therapy and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. So many things were making sense: past symptoms, past medication treatments, and my current immune therapy treatment. With that new knowledge, I would ask very specific questions during my monthly follow-up appointments with the specialists and the nurses at the infusion center where I received my monthly Remicade infusions, which I referred to as “RémiMartin Tuesdays.”
Being both a patient and a student pharmacist have given me a greater appreciation for the soft skills we learn in school. Looking back, I am thankful for this experience. I can empathize with my patients dealing with chronic illnesses and the worries they understandably have during this pandemic.
On to 2021 and beyond
I continue to work as an intern pharmacist at Costco Pharmacy and at LLUH in the I.V. room as a compounding pharmacy technician. The COVID–19 pandemic has been frightening, with my monthly treatment lowering my immune system. But it’s not just COVID—I am potentially susceptible to any communicable illness. Nonetheless, I continue to show up to help my patients and serve my community because that’s what pharmacists do: Provide care.
As I continue to recover from my autoimmune disease flare-up through I.V. treatments, my hope for 2021 is to remain positive and for everyone to listen to each other with a more empathetic ear. We’ve all gone through a lot during this pandemic.
And with that, I will leave you all with a quote from the late Chadwick Boseman, as T’Challa in Black Panther: “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look
after one another as if we were a single tribe.”
Martin Bailey is a third-year PharmD candidate at the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy and was the
2019–20 APhA–ASP Region 8 Member-at-large.