Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Therapeutics-Oral Exam

Four hours before my first oral therapeutics exam, I panicked! My heart was racing and my mind could not focus on the task at hand: reviewing the materials that I still need to memorize! After a good greasy meal at Panda Express and a few minutes of stress reduction breathing techniques, I was able to calm myself down.

Thirty minutes of preparation time went by extremely fast. I barely had enough time to scribble some information on each column of the SOAP sheet for the two major conditions before time was up. I thought I was pretty calm before the presentation, but I found myself stumbling over my words and losing my train of thoughts a few more times than I would have liked. Luckily, the examiner was nice enough to ask me questions to help me bring up some of the points that I had missed.

At the end, the examiner had two minutes to evaluate my performance and she was very kind to say only good things. I asked her whether I got an automatic fail (it happens when you pick a contraindicated treatment that can potentially kill the patient) and she said no. If I had to assess my performance, I would give myself a 7.5 or 8 out of 10, which I think is okay for the first time. I wish it was better, but I'll try not to be so critical of myself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pharmacy Legislative Day in Sacramento

On April 22, 2009, pharmacists and student pharmacists all over California gathered in Sacramento to represent the voices of the pharmacy profession.

The day started with updates on the important legislative issues currently being advocated by the California Pharmacist Association (CPhA). The informative session ended with a light-hearted keynote address from Assembly Member Jerry Hill from District 19 in South San Francisco, encouraging the audience to be proactive in the legislative process. To drive home the point, he gave an example of the persistent around-the-clock phone calls by the same group of people repeating the same message they want his fellow colleague to hear. He added that there are many stake holders involved in the process of law-making and the quiet ones will usually be ignored. Therefore, if we do not want the politicians to dictate the policies that drive our profession, we need to make our voices heard.

We indeed did on that day by meeting individually, as well as in groups, with senators and assembly members from our respective districts. Among the important issues we asked for support was the bill advocating for pharmacist-administered flu and pneumococcal vaccines without protocol (prior approval from a physician). Allowing pharmacists, the first-line public health resources, to provide these immunizations will greatly enhance access and decrease morbidity and mortality from these diseases.

We commemorated the annual event with a picture of pharmacists and student pharmacists in white coats on the steps of the Capitol. It was truly amazing seeing so many in the profession moving it forward.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Spring quarter of the second year marks the beginning of a series of therapeutics courses that drives all of us to the brink of stress-induce anxiety episodes. The class is 6 units, which composed of 6 hours of lectures and 1 and 1/2 hours of conference weekly AND many many hours of self-study. It incorporates all the relevant subjects we have learned thus far in pharmacy school (physiology, pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, biochemistry, etc) in one giant and scary class.

There is so much to memorize and synthesize. The worst part is that we don't get to use our notes in conferences, when we have to read cases and decide how to best treat the patients. There are so many acronyms and lab values that I have never seen before. Furthermore, it feels like I am racing through the materials without having enough time to digest them even though I have reviewed the relevant lectures before each conference.

Our first oral exam will be coming up next week. We will have thirty minutes to read the case, write all the pertinent information down in a Subjective/Objective/Assessment/Plan (SOAP) format and then fifteen minutes to present the patient with the treatment recommendations and counseling points to the examiners. I definitely need to practice with my classmates before the exam!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Positive Energy

I have heard a lot of great things about this elective called "Heart Matters in Pharmacy" and finally decided to squeeze it into my schedule. It's really interesting and unlike any other in the health care profession. In this class, we actually take the time out to tend to our right brain to achieve a balance in life. Each session would always start with a few minutes of feeling appreciation by first focusing our attention to the heart and breathing slowly and deeply. Then, we turn our thoughts to appreciating a person, thing or animal. This is called "the heart coherence technique" and the director of the course informed us that it has been proven to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels. I totally believe her, not only because she is a well-respected faculty member, but because I can feel the parasympathetic effects even with only a few minutes of practice each day. It reminds me of the period of my life when I actually took time out to meditate on a daily basis.

Practicing the heart coherence technique has a similar calming effect as meditation. However, I think I like the heart coherence technique better because it actually forces my brain to dig out the positive things in my life and be grateful for them. It feels much better to have positive thoughts and have an appreciation for life, people, animals and things.

Each class session, we also get to listen to our role models in the field of pharmacy (actual working pharmacists) share their stories and insights. Often, we hear about their tragedies and how they dealt and moved beyond them. They also share their insights about balancing work and personal life. Being at UCSF, we normally see and hear about the achievements and awards of these pharmacists/professors. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to hear the stories told from their hearts. I know it takes great personal strength to be seen in front of the class with so much emotional vulnerability.

This class is definitely one-of-a-kind in pharmacy school and I'm glad I am experiencing it. At the end of every 3-hour class, I feel rejuvenated and relaxed, as if I had just practiced yoga.