It is funny how some things turn out in life. I was that one kid who knew what she wanted at a very young age. My parents will tell you that I was very adventurous and probably the hard-headed one; a very opinionated kid who will speak her mind (some people call it mouthy or troublesome, but whatever!). I was always the life of the party for kids or adults – I always had my dance moves. I was always fascinated about my environment; I was that one annoying kid who will ask all the “Why?” questions. I believe this trait has helped and hurt me at the same time as I always want to know “why” before doing anything.
Since childhood, I always knew that I wanted to be somebody who will do great things to impact the world. With very ambitious parents, I had no choice than to dream of being like them. I was brought up by parents who spent their entire lives giving back to the community – they still do. I remember my physician mother organizing health workshops as well as coordinating and participating in local health magazines, all in an effort to provide resources to help sensitize the indigenous population to common health issues. At one point, I got inspired to start writing my own story for the health magazine, which wasn’t published, but I am still baffled till date as to how I could come up with such a story at a very young age – I will still publish it one day though.
Since my mother was the head physician of the children’s ward back in those days, she always organized Christmas parties at the hospital where she shared gifts and food to the children who were admitted in the hospital. That meant Christmas was in two phases at my household: first, we had lunch together as a family at home, then we went to the hospital to spend time with the sick children. My mother, being the only physician in our entire community at that time, decided to do quick consultations before work. So that meant neighbors knocked at our door at 5, 6 am in the morning to consult with my mother, thus interrupting our sleep. Though it was really annoying at that time, the one thing I loved doing was to shadow my mother at home and sometimes at work during her consultations (sorry, we didn’t [and probably still don’t] have HIPAA).
I should be talking about my current career choice, so why am I giving history about my past life? Well, to know me is to know my past. Every single thing that I am today, or any path that I have taken has been influenced by my past. Now, why did I choose pharmacy and what do I find rewarding from it?
After shadowing my mother several times, I knew I wanted to be a medical doctor just like my mother. My older sister and I had always wanted to be medical doctors – she finally fulfilled her goal of becoming a medical doctor and she is very good at it (kudos to her). But as for me, I discovered at one point that I had a very soft heart and couldn’t stand seeing so much blood or people in so much pain. Nonetheless, I was that one kid who knew how to read and spell all the medications in our medicine cabinet at home, from which my mother prescribed some [free of charge] medications to the patients who came to consult at home [Side note: if this science thing had not worked out for me, I probably would have been a writer or something because I lovedddd spelling, reading and writing. Not sure where those gifts went during my pharmacy school days when I needed them the most *insert eyeroll*]. I was very fascinated with medications and therefore knew I wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
Pharmacy is perceived very differently in Cameroon so I wasn’t sure about what kind of pharmacist I wanted to be, but one thing I always knew was that I didn’t want to be a retail pharmacist (no offense to retail pharmacy; this was my young mind thinking based on the only kind of pharmacy I knew in Cameroon – actually, I now think that retail is one of the best fields in pharmacy especially in the US). All I knew at that time was that I wanted to be someone who could have an impact especially on people like my neighbors by providing them medication and free access to health services like my mother did. I remember having a discussion with one of my aunts shortly before I relocated to the US; she tried discouraging me from doing pharmacy and I [respectfully] told her not to worry and that I knew what I wanted – I told her that I plan on working in the pharmaceutical industry one day.
I relocated to the US immediately after highschool and began my journey into pharmacy school shortly thereafter. Despite all thehardships and struggles blended with occasional bouts of regret as to why I didn’t just pursue medicine (I believe every pharmacy student experiences that feeling at least once), I survived pharmacy school. Today, I have what some will call the ideal job. As a clinical pharmacist and leader at work, I have the opportunity to use my expertise to work with health stakeholders to make clinical decisions that will improve health outcomes while minimizing healthcare cost for patients all over the country. So, am I working in a pharmaceutical industry? The answer is not yet! But my job is the closest thing to working in the pharmaceutical industry. Also, the Health Economics program that I am currently pursuing will be a stepping stone towards more opportunity than just the pharmaceutical industry (more to come on that). At the end of the day, I still have the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on the lives of patients through my service as a healthcare professional, just like my mother. I am also working on a couple of projects with my mother to improve the level of healthcare in Africa as a whole. So far, life has taught me that it is a slow but steady process and I am enjoying every part of it. Someone once said slow and steady wins the race. As for me, my race is to help as many humans as I can before my time is over on earth. I hope to win someday; if not, I hope to learn. I am a work in progress and I choose to look better, feel better and do better.