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All Things Pharmacy

A blog series presented by Nancy Fjortoft, Ph.D., Dean, Chicago College of Pharmacy

Nancy FjortoftOur CCP alumni have gone on to pursue many different areas of pharmacy practice since graduating from Midwestern University. Each week in the month of October, one of our alumni will share with you their pharmacy school experiences that helped to prepare them for their careers today.

2013 Blogs:

Dr. Bola Akinlawon, Overnight Pharmacist, Walgreens
Dr. Laura Licari, Clinical Advisor, CVS Caremark
Dr. Chase Williams, Senior Pharmacy Specialist, Sanofi US
Dr. Rinku Patel, Founder and CEO, Kloudscript, Inc.

2012 Blogs:
Dr. James Quach, Market Health & Wellness Director
Dr. Dawn Koselleck, Medical Science Liaison
Dr. Kathryn Jost, Pharmacy Clinical Manager
Dr. Jason Howard, Home Care Pharmacist
Dr. Megan Corrigan, Emergency Medicine Clinical Pharmacist

Bola Akinlawon, Pharm.D.
Overnight PharmacistBola Akinlawon
CCP Class of 2006

My name is Bola Akinlawon, and I graduated from the Chicago College of Pharmacy with the class of 2006. Prior to gaining admission to Midwestern, I knew that I enjoyed helping people from all walks of life. While I was a student at CCP, I worked as a pharmacy intern. When I graduated, I continued working as a staff pharmacist; then in 2009 I started working as an overnight pharmacist at Walgreens.

People often inquire about my duties as an overnight pharmacist. In addition to all the services provided in a retail pharmacy, a great number of patients have a need for medications that are not pharmaceutically available, or are temporarily unavailable. Examples include compounding Progesterone suppositories, Testosterone capsules, and Enalapril suspension, especially for the pediatric population. The overnight pharmacist will compound such medications tailored specifically to the needs of the patient.

When I started pharmacy school in 2002, I wasn't sure whether I was going to work as a pharmacist in a hospital setting or as a community pharmacist. I had volunteered in both, and I had acquired a good understanding of what to expect from each practice setting. I still had no clue as to which direction or career path to take. Thankfully, the variety of coursework at CCP prepared me for my current job.

As I look back on those experiences at Midwestern that contributed to shaping my career path, I must say that I was very fortunate to have had incredibly amazing teachers, preceptors, and mentors that willingly offered good advice.

What I have learned is that networking is the key that opens the doors to a lot of opportunities. I hope that this blog entry will help to encourage current students to take advantage of all the opportunities they have in order to explore the various niches of pharmacy.


Laura Licari, Pharm.D.Laura Licari
Clinical Advisor
CCP Class of 2006

Thank you for stopping by this blog series, All Things Pharmacy. My name is Laura Licari, and I graduated from CCP in 2006. If you attended the last month's Alumni Networking Breakfast, then hopefully we had a chance to meet in person. Coming back to campus and participating in student events is just one of many activities that keep me excited about our profession. I enjoy meeting other practitioners and learning about the many avenues of pharmacy practice. I currently practice at CVS Caremark as a Clinical Advisor. I help Caremark clients implement our clinical programs and manage their pharmacy spend.

During my four years at CCP, I didn't understand and therefore didn't participate in all of the opportunities available for professional growth. I worked part-time as a pharmacy intern at Osco Pharmacy, as well as for the Illinois Eye Bank, a non-for-profit that procures corneal tissue for transplantation. During school I lived at home, and I didn't understand that being more involved would satisfy my sense of community and enthusiasm for pharmacy. I was co-chair of APhA-ASP Operation: Diabetes program, and learned a lot about managing community glucose screenings. In 2005, I attended APhA's annual meeting, which was a great experience to network with other pharmacy students.

However, I never attended an IPhA annual meeting until 2010. I never attended a meeting of a local pharmacy chapter until I joined North Suburban Pharmacists Association (NSP) in 2011. I never attended the IPhA/ICHP-sponsored Legislative Day until 2012. Even with MWU and specifically Dr. Cornell encouraging me to become more involved, I felt I 'couldn't' make the time, rather than seeing that I 'wouldn't' make the time.

In retrospect, I can see that CCP provided the opportunities and networks to prepare me for a very successful career in pharmacy. I am now on the Board of Directors for IPhA (since 2010), the Board of Directors for NSP (since 2012), and next year will be my third year attending both the APhA and IPhA annual conferences.

I know it feels like a struggle just to meet academic deadlines, I honestly remember all too well. But I can tell you that making time to be more involved in campus activities, joining the e-board of an association or attending professional networking events will help you feel connected to why you're working so hard towards that Pharm.D. I wish I could go back in time and tell that to myself in 2002.

Good luck to all of you. Remember, your job is what you do, your profession is who you are.


Chase Williams, Pharm.D.Chase Williams
Senior Pharmacy Specialist
CCP Class of 2006

My name is Chase Williams, and I am a graduate of the CCP Class of 2006. I am a Senior Pharmacy Specialist at Sanofi US, a global leader in the healthcare industry. I have the privilege of working on a new team dedicated to providing clinical education and resources to pharmacists and other key members of the healthcare team. Our focus is on diabetes and immunizations, and I partner with other pharmacists to identify initiatives that will help improve the lives and health of patients with diabetes. Currently, I also attend Loyola University Chicago where I will graduate with my masters in business administration this month.

After graduating from pharmacy school, I served in the United States Army for five years, where I served as an Officer. The decision to join was very difficult. I faced many challenges in the military, and the learning curve was steep. During this time, I held various positions including a deployment with a combat support hospital to Afghanistan in 2011. Just prior to working at Sanofi US, I worked at both Walgreens and Walmart. Both were extremely rewarding experiences.

Midwestern University gave me the tools necessary to be a well-rounded pharmacist and a confident leader. While I was a pharmacy student, I served as Regent of Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity and enjoyed the friendships I developed throughout my time at the University. The faculty at Midwestern are extremely dedicated to students and the profession of pharmacy, and I encourage you to utilize your time at the College to learn as much as possible.

My advice to you as you continue along your career path is to always take on opportunities that present themselves, especially the ones that take you out of your element. It's during these challenges that we grow most as individuals. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Understand your weaknesses, and identify opportunities to help strengthen these. Whether it's public speaking, being a leader, or decision making, everyone has areas they feel need improvement. Don't be afraid to fail. If you don't fail then you are probably not utilizing your skill set to its maximum potential. Most importantly, always take time out to have fun. The friendships you will develop in school now will continue in one way or another throughout your career.


Rinku Patel, Pharm.D.Rinku Patel
Founder and CEO
CCP Class of 2002

Little did I know that my part-time job in high school would lead me into the wonderful world of pharmacy! My name is Rinku Patel, and I graduated from CCP in 2002! I am a Founder and CEO of KloudScript, a company focused on providing business framework to independent retail pharmacies, so that pharmacists can provide face-to-face care for patients that are on high-cost, high-complexity, specialty medications. Previously, I was a Group Vice President responsible for business development at one of the most recognized independent specialty pharmacies in the country, Diplomat.

As I started to write this blog, I could not resist the urge to dig out my CCP yearbooks, pictures and even med-chem handouts upon which my dear friends had authored hilarious rhymes. It was like yesterday! I remember in my fourth year, as the graduation day came close, the realization of having to enter the "real world" hit me hard! Working in a retail pharmacy throughout college, I was aware of what "a day in a life of a retail pharmacist" was like. I was keenly focused on finding a job that satisfied my urge to do something "out of the box." Luckily, at one of the student networking events, I met someone that helped me get my first job as an IT pharmacist at Caremark. Since then, I have had the privilege to work with terrific colleagues and inspirational managers at Caremark and OptionCare. Although they mentored me in moving ahead, I truly believe that my strong foundation for future growth was built at CCP.

I was able to participate in many CCP activities ranging from student council to various professional organizations, and even take part in a summer research opportunity. In addition, the management classes, home-infusion elective, unique rotation experiences, many professors, preceptors, as well as the administrative team at CCP all contributed to my knowledge base. I also learned important skills of teamwork, time management, leadership, and even public speaking. All of which are crucial in my current role.

Upon graduation, I realized that the relationship with alma mater does not end on the day of graduation. I am able to stay connected to the College through the CCP Alumni Council and activities throughout the year that allow me to network. There is no doubt in my mind that pharmacy is a terrific profession, and that CCP is a fine institution. At the same time, what you get out of it is a function of the initiative and effort you put forth. Pharmacists are able to practice pharmacy in many ways, and their roles continue to evolve. Take the time to meet people in your profession that inspire you; try to build an ongoing dialogue them; ask them to mentor you. Networking is an everyday effort that requires giving as well as receiving. If you do connect with mentors that are kind enough to take the time out for you, then figure out ways to be resourceful to them as well. It will go a long way in getting a recommendation for a job that can put you on the path of our own inspiring journey! My best wishes to all of you.


2012 Blogs

James Quach, Pharm.D.
Market Health & Wellness Director
CCP Class of 2006

My name is James Quach, and I am a graduate of the Chicago College of Pharmacy class of 2006. I have had the privilege of serving the Chicago area in pharmacy management roles at Walgreens and most recently with Walmart as a Market Health & Wellness Director. In this position, I am an operations leader for the northern Illinois area which is comprised of 13 pharmacies and 11 vision centers. My areas of responsibility include sales and profit, merchandising, compliance, patient care, asset protection, and human resources. I oversee 24 direct reports and work cooperatively with hundreds of others. Together as a team, this year we will achieve 100 million dollars in sales.

When I started pharmacy school in 2002, I knew that my heart was in community pharmacy with aspirations to advance in the corporate setting. As a student, I often asked myself "How will I get there?" and "What training or tools will I need to help me be a successful leader?" Much like building a house, every good architect must have all the necessary tools at their disposal. Through my experiences at Midwestern, I was able to take those valued lessons and put them in my tool box, so that one day I could apply what I learned from those past situations to make me a successful leader.

For me, it was the courses like Pharmacy Management that introduced me to the financial world of pharmacy operations. There was also the dynamics of working in groups on presentations and various projects that helped me build interpersonal communication skills that I use today as a leader. In our student group projects, we did not always agree on answers, or on how things should be done, but these interactions with my peers taught me to be more open to other ideas. These social experiences were valuable as they gave me the opportunity to learn by witnessing different personalities all working together to achieve the same common goals.

People often ask what I do as a Market Health & Wellness Director, and I tell them that I am in the business of leveraging talent. Yes, at the end of the day it is about quality patient outcomes, compliance, sales and profit, etc., but more importantly it is about leading people and leveraging what they do best, so that we can be successful in these other areas.

My role today has allowed me to stay connected to Midwestern students and faculty thru alumni events and career fairs as I represent Walmart. I enjoy sharing my life lessons and experiences that helped guide me to find my calling in pharmacy, and I hope those reading this blog will find theirs as well.

Dawn Koselleck, Pharm.D.
Medical Science Liaison
CCP Class of 2006

My name is Dawn Koselleck, and I have been working as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) for Abbott Laboratories for six years. When I started with Abbott as an MSL, I was part of our cardiovascular/dyslipidemia team. Currently, I am in the immunology franchise. MSLs are a field-based group of M.D.'s, Ph.D.'s, and Pharm.D.'s, who support and discuss research projects, respond to unsolicited medical information, assist and support internal training and education, and attend scientific conferences. The primary role is to network, establish, and maintain relationships with key opinion leaders in the community and academic setting involved in research and education.

Prior to pharmacy school, I worked as a sales representative in the pharmaceutical industry. This gave me the opportunity to learn the industry and interact with the MSL team. I knew this was an area I wanted pursue after pharmacy school, but unfortunately, I did not fully understand the role or the requirements to become an MSL.

At the time I was in pharmacy school, there were not any classes or electives to assist me with gaining this understanding. Fortunately, during my ambulatory care rotation, I had an amazing preceptor who always inquired about the career options her students were considering, and if possible, she would help in any way she could. In my case, she was able set up a meeting for me with one of the MSLs that she worked with. During this meeting, the MSL discussed how she came about her career choice and helped me further understand the role of the MSL. In addition, she provided insight into how I could become a better candidate. This individual was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about her role as an MSL. Having that similar passion in what I do is so important to me. She really inspired me to further pursue this career opportunity.

Being able to interpret research data and having a strong knowledge of research methods is so critical to my role. Fortunately, while in pharmacy school, I was also able to work on a diabetes research project with one of the faculty. This was an extremely valuable experience and provided me with knowledge about conducting research, as I was able to see first hand the challenges and intricacies involved.  

I would also like to mention that there have been a number of pharmacy classes that have been very instrumental in helping me have a successful career as an MSL. To this day, I refer back to my notes from these classes:

As I look back on my experiences in pharmacy school that helped shape my career path, I must say I am fortunate to have had so many amazing teachers, preceptors, and mentors that were always willing to assist me and provide me with interesting opportunities. These individuals are truly there for the students' development, and students should use them whenever possible. In addition, students should always work to build their network. This is a key success factor for my role as an MSL. I would like to wish everyone the best of luck as they start thinking about their future career opportunities.

Kathryn Jost, Pharm.D.
Pharmacy Clinical Manager
CCP Class of 2004

I can't believe it has been eight years since I graduated from Midwestern University's Chicago College of Pharmacy. If you asked me when I started pharmacy school where I would end up, I would have said retail without hesitation. Retail was the environment I was comfortable with; it was the reason why I decided to become a pharmacist. It wasn't until I was on rotation that I discovered I felt more at home in a hospital setting. My preceptors encouraged me to continue to cultivate my clinical skills by pursuing a residency.  The next thing I knew, I was a PGY1 resident at Cardinal Health. My residency was the most challenging and rewarding year, and it helped me decide that clinical pharmacy management was the road I wanted to follow.

I currently work at Vista Health System in Waukegan, Illinois, as a Clinical Manager. It's a job that I truly love because of the variety of responsibilities, which include developing and refining clinical programs based on the needs of the patients and the hospital, formulary management, serving as a clinical resource for physicians and nurses, and precepting our PGY1 resident and fourth-year pharmacy students.

Aside from my management duties, I still enjoy counseling patients. I am the bariatric pharmacist on our multidisciplinary team that helps patients with their weight loss surgery from start to finish. My role on the team is comprehensive. I educate patients prior to surgery on which medications to avoid, how to take their medication after bariatric surgery, and monitor parameters for each medication.  While our patients are in the hospital, I round with the surgeons, nurses and dietician initiating and adjusting medications based on the clinical status of the patient. I appreciate when patients call me with questions or just want to give me an update on their progress. It validates why pharmacy was the right career for me.

My rotation experiences and preceptors have guided me toward a fulfilling career as a clinical practitioner and manager, and I will forever be grateful to Midwestern University for my experiences.  As students, don't be afraid to take advantage of the wide variety of rotations to select from and keep an open mind. You never know what might interest you. Hopefully you will find that area of pharmacy that keeps you going back for more!

Jason Howard, Pharm.D.
Home Care Pharmacist
CCP Class of 2009

In the short time since my graduation from Midwestern University's Chicago College of Pharmacy, I've quickly realized the value of the Pharm.D. degree. A pharmacist with the doctor of pharmacy degree has the opportunity to excel in a variety of paths: from independent, to chain retail, to specialized clinical applications.

Prior to applying to pharmacy school, I worked in an independent pharmacy in a rural community. As a pharmacy technician, I looked up to the proprietor, who was the quintessential picture of a pharmacist. This small town pharmacist knew his customers, their medical problems, and the names of all their grandchildren. This is how I wanted to practice pharmacy.

While in pharmacy school, I enjoyed working as an intern in a chain retail setting: first at Walgreens, then later at CVS. I learned about counseling patients, administering vaccines, and far more than I ever wanted to know about prescription drug insurance coverage. I learned how to work very quickly and efficiently. Although I still thought about opening my own pharmacy in the future, I planned on working at a community pharmacy for several years.

During pharmacy school I was active in Phi Delta Chi and APhA, where I learned about being an advocate for the pharmacy profession. I recognize that there is a need for ongoing legislation reform to continue to advance the profession, and I remain active in support of various initiatives.

Today, I am privileged to work as a clinical staff pharmacist for a home infusion company for a little more than three years now. Prior to entering pharmacy school, and throughout my pharmacy training, I had very little exposure to home care. Then I was presented with the opportunity to work for Critical Care Systems, and it sounded like a new and interesting challenge. I really enjoy my work with this company. It has given me the chance to get to know a select group of patients incredibly well, as I provide them with their medications week in and week out. It has allowed me to build that trusting patient-pharmacist relationship that I had aspired to. Frequently, I am the first person a patient calls with medical questions, even those beyond pharmaceutical concerns. I work closely with physicians to monitor labs, adjust doses, and formulate total parental nutrition. I am a part of a true health care team that includes intake, insurance, nursing, technicians, and delivery staff.

I hope that this blog entry will encourage current and perspective students to look at the true spectrum of pharmacy: to consider professional niches beyond retail pharmacy and investigate careers in some of these more specialized areas.

Megan Corrigan, Pharm.D., BCPS Megan Corrigan, CCP
Emergency Medicine Clinical Pharmacist,
CCP Class of 2006

My name is Megan Corrigan, and I graduated from CCP in 2006. After earning my degree, I completed a PGY1 residency at Rush University Medical Center, followed by a PGY2 residency in Emergency Medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital in Detroit, MI. I currently practice as an Emergency Medicine Clinical Pharmacist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. In addition, I am a board certified pharmacotherapy specialist, as well as a BLS and ACLS instructor. I am very involved not only with emergency services in the hospital, but also pre-hospital care and city-wide preparedness. I established these clinical services in emergency medicine at Illinois Masonic a little more than four years ago. 

If you would have asked me while I was in pharmacy school if this is where I thought I would be after graduation, I would have definitely said no. I went into pharmacy school thinking I was going to work in retail pharmacy and not step foot in a hospital aside from my rotations. Boy, was I wrong!  During school, we didn't have as many electives to choose from as students do today. I chose to take both a "Toxicology" elective and a "Drugs of Abuse" elective. During these classes, I began to realize that I really liked the acute side of treatment, but I still wasn't sure I wanted to do it full time. 

As I started rotations, I chose a variety of rotations because I was still uncertain what I wanted to do with my career. I was realizing that retail wasn't for me, but I didn't know where to turn. I know some students think they know what they like and tailor their rotations to that specific area without trying anything new. But I am so glad that I chose the rotations that I did! I ended up driving all over the city every six weeks, but I learned more with each new rotation. The rotation that changed my view on my future plans was my elective rotation at the Cook County Jail. I rotated with pharmacists, physician assistants, and physicians. Seeing the acute and chronic care they provided to the inmates really opened my eyes. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to change the path of my career and become a more clinically-based practitioner. It wasn't until my first few rotations as a PGY1 that I realized I wanted to pursue a PGY2 in Emergency Medicine. 

Additionally, I joined a few clubs in school. I worked a lot during school, too. One of my favorite clubs was the Geriatric Club. It was an inter-disciplinary club where we worked with CCOM students to enhance geriatric awareness and visit some of the geriatric patients in the Downers Grove community. I think this began to foster a lifelong relationship with physicians. I now work side-by-side with physicians every day as a well-respected member of the medical team. By experiencing interdisciplinary care early in my career, I now flourish working with all disciplines of medicine in the emergency department. 

I can't say I remember everything I learned in pharmacy school. I know I have forgotten a lot since I graduated. I'm pretty sure that's normal. But the things I remember today are the ones that continue to impact my career on a daily basis. These are lifelong lessons about thinking outside the box, not being afraid to try something new, and about having mutual respect for everyone. These lessons have taken me far, and I know they will continue to guide the way I practice in the future. Without the solid base of knowledge and experiences that I gained in pharmacy school, I wouldn't be where I am. For that, I am eternally grateful.

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