By: Shannon Tellier
Dr. Tran is an assistant clinical professor at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, and a clinical pharmacy manager in Internal Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian: Columbia University Medical Center. She received her BS in Public Health and Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attended a pharmacy practice residency at the University of Illinois Chicago. Dr. Tran worked as a clinical pharmacist in cardiology and critical care at Northshore University Health Systems in affiliation with Northwestern University and University of Chicago medical schools. After her time in Chicago, she accepted a position as a tenure-track faculty member at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. Dr. Tran is greatly involved with the New York City Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (NYCSHP).
In January, I had my first Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation with Dr. Tran, and was able to interview her about her journey in pharmacy.
Q: What were the most challenging aspects and best memories during your residency?
A: UIC was one of the few residency programs that offered overnight hospital on-call that alternated among 12 residents to cover any/all pharmacy related issues. These issues included pediatric pharmacokinetics for vancomycin troughs insensitively drawn at 2am in the morning, preventative antiviral regimens for accidental employee sticks, and adult and pediatric cardiac arrest – examples that serve as an aperitif to the abundant variety of cases we dealt with.
The number of hours spent at the hospital was excruciatingly tremendous. I was on overnight call every 4th night in the beginning and, at the very best, every 8th night. Although we were provided, as the medical residents proclaimed, with the best on-call room according to size, location, and amenities (a 15-inch television), it was disturbing to have realized a couple of things. I had spent 365 days in Chicago and could not describe the view from the John Hancock tower, the historical facts described on the Architecture boat tour of lake Michigan, how soft the sand on North Avenue Beach is, or the taste of a hotdog from Wrigley Field with any personal or firsthand experience. Those absences were a bit of a challenge.
On-call involved arriving to the hospital at 8am in the morning and staying until noon the next day; most of us broke the rules, and went to our office well into the evening to complete the rest of our projects. We took advantage of the loophole that 30 hours only pertained to direct patient care. I spent nearly 40 out of 48 hours within the confines of the same hospital walls, among the same 12 co-residents, in the same scrubs nonetheless.
However, those rough, arduous times are also the most memorable and ingratiating. Delirium from minimal sleep can incite understanding of the significance in the value of comradery, trust among residents, and hilarity of difficult situations as a precautionary net to maintain normalcy with the demanding pressures and stresses of a residency. I would never trade the aforementioned 365 days of my life – it is times of ultimate obstacles when you realize your capabilities and appreciate the fact that you can handle the unknown, which are enabling factors that guide you to seek the most in your career and life.
Q: What advice would you give to current students about preparing and choosing a residency program?
A: Do not let location be a limiting factor in your residency selections. Diversifying your regional experience exposes you to the realities of how pharmacy is practiced throughout the nation, broadens your professional network, and offers you the most opportunities for residencies and future career options. CDTM, which just passed in New York, was a mainstay in NC and IL. Had I not seen its successes firsthand, I would have been one of the first to point out its potential flaws and resistant to its implementation. I can now be proud to have taught a coresident from small town in Ohio – the first person I have ever met who has never seen a fresh cherry – that maraschino cherries are not how cherries are naturally found; in exchange, she taught me how to make peppermint bark.
For that and many similar instances, I now have friends to visit in cities all over the United States. I remain close with residents from Chicago, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Boston. I do not think that I would have had the same experience if I chose a smaller residency program in NC, which may recruit candidates from mostly within the state.
A good way to prepare for a residency involves speaking with current residents at national conferences (it is mandatory for them to attend) and asking them about their experiences at the places that you are considering. Residents will filter-out and provide you with the most important details and avoid you from having to read pages and pages of informational material (which may not answer your questions). You can learn a lot from an initial reaction to your question, “how was your interview at this hospital?” than you may not get from reading a pamphlet. Good questions to ask are: do you require your residents to publish (a plus in my opinion), are residents involved in the P&T process, do they perform CE-accredited presentations, what percentage of their duties involve verifying orders, and where have your residents from the previous year gone?
Q: What made you move to New York and become a faculty member at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions?
A: Pursuing academia has always been a goal of mine, and discovering the opportunity to become a faculty at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions dispelled any fears of moving to New York City. It also removed any hesitancy to leave my friends and family. This past year teaching has only further solidified the belief that I made the right decision. I love working with students because I feel that I grow as they grow. Teaching has brought me the most satisfaction in my career thus far; surrounding myself with students renews my desire to learn more and to remain updated on the newest technological advances in medicine and teaching methods.
Q: Since you are a preceptor for the five-month NewYork-Presbyterian rotation, could you please explain how this program is beneficial to students aspiring to apply to a residency?
A: The five-month program is like a “mini-residency” process. It involves submitting an application, undergoing a review process, and receiving an acceptance notification to perform five of your APPE rotations with New York Presbyterian (NYP) Columbia or Cornell. The preceptors at NYP then know you as “bundle students,” and Marc Roth helps you obtain your badge, username/password, and three elective rotations.
The program is represented by a student advisory committee, which discusses any issues or concerns voiced by the students or preceptors to optimize the experience. The organization of the program provides a platform for students to request activities that they wish to pursue. It also serves as a resourceful outlet for problems that students may experience.
The five-month program allows students to focus more of their time on learning, particularly by minimizing the time required to familiarize themselves with new hospital operations and computer systems. Students also maintain consistency with the protocol and guidelines of one institution. The rotation program also encourages longitudinal projects, since the student will be at the same organization for five months and allow preceptors the opportunity to have more “face time” with the same student(s). Projects spanning over one month are more aligned with the typical undertakings that students will be exposed to as residents, and these may better prepare them for a residency (should they pursue this route).
Q: Can you please explain what NYCSHP is? How can students become more involved in this organization?
A: NYCSHP is the Manhattan chapter of the New York State Council of Health-system Pharmacists (NYSCHP). It is a great organization to join because it allows members to meet other active pharmacy professionals and leaders. The organization provides its members with a variety of educational programs, philanthropic activities, and network experiences to encourage professional growth.
NYCSHP gears several programs towards student development. Of course, student participation at all of the events is always welcome.
Q: You have experienced a lot during your pharmacy career after graduating. Is there an inspirational person and/or quote that helped you get to where you are now?
A: I am extraordinarily fortunate for my exposure to so many inspirational and amazing mentors. My professors at UNC Chapel Hill set strong examples of the success that you can achieve through hard work and setting high goals. The pharmacy directors at institutions, like Swedish Memorial in Seattle and Northeastern Memorial Hospital, are visionaries that affirm the growth of pharmacy and the role of pharmacists as ideal, integral members of the healthcare process. My residency director made me realize there are many different ways to accomplish the same goal and that sometimes thinking outside the box makes you more valuable than conforming to how things “have always been done.” My mentor at NorthShore hospital is the current president of ASHP, and, even with his busy schedule, found time to encourage my involvement in professional pharmacy organizations so that I have a voice in the future of pharmacy.
The common thread among all the influential people in my career is not the wealth of accolades or achievements but the positive attitude, openness to change, and ability to adjust that was rudiment to their success. These are all the characteristics that I hope to embody along my professional career.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for current pharmacy students?
A: Ask questions. Even if you know what you want to do and how to proceed in getting it done, the information you garner when you ask questions is amazing. It may winnow away the undesirables and redirect you to a more suitable path or more compatible future.
I was happy with my job in Chicago and the friends I had. I serendipitously asked a colleague about what her friends in pharmacy do in NY. This lead to a conversation about how happy she was for a newly-engaged friend leaving for Boston who works as a professor at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions (right out of residency from CA). I decided to apply for the position, and, now, I am even happier than I was in Chicago with the trajectory of my career and the city in which I live (winters were way too long in Chicago).
I wish students Good Luck along their own journeys, and hope that my advice and own experiences provided a little bit of insight.