Professional Advice / Opinions:

Student Pharmacist Star of the Month: Praneeta Nagraj

By: Marie Huang

Each month, the Rho Chi Post has the wonderful opportunity to sit down with an inspiring leader among the student pharmacists here at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions – someone who is not afraid to stand apart from the crowd and can be the change he or she wants to see in the world.  This March, Praneeta Nagraj, a 3rd year PharmD candidate and current captain of the Raaz dance team, speaks to us about APhA-ASP events, her extracurricular activities, and experiences in Rome.

Q: Surprisingly, this is the first time that we sit down with a current executive board member of our APhA-ASP chapter!  There have been a good number of students uncertain of what APhA-ASP is out to accomplish.  Please tell us, what are the organization’s plans? What is your involvement?  How can students benefit by joining?
A: This year, APhA-ASP is working towards catering to and refocusing on the students’ needs.  At our first general body meeting of the semester, we received excellent feedback from our members about what they wished to see.  This semester, we do have a lot in store for the students!  Let me give you a quick update on all things APhA-ASP: On Thursday, March 15, we have our “Meet the Candidates” session; it is an even to elect next year’s APhA-ASP executive board.  Around the end of March and the beginning of April, we will again collaborate with the debate team to put forth a discussion on a particularly pressing issue (for student pharmacists, pharmacists, and the general public), so keep a look out for an invitation!  As we speak, I am working on the finer details.  In April, for the first time ever, in support of the American Heart Association, we are expanding our Operation Heart project to a “5K walk” on campus.  Moreover, just for the students to take a break from classes, we plan to host a movie night event with Rho Chi for a screening of “Limitless.”

Students frequently ask about the benefits of joining APhA-ASP.  Being a part of APhA-ASP helps you prepare yourself on a professional level to enter the real world of pharmacy.  I find that the most tangible benefits are in participating in the patient care projects (on- and off-campus), attending conferences, networking, interacting with the faculty on a personal level, getting a 20% discount on select textbooks, and being a part of something much greater.  In fact, there is a student chapter at every single college of pharmacy in the nation, and many practicing pharmacists are active members.  As a member of APhA-ASP, you are also supporting your profession as a whole, especially as APhA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) fights to maintain the recognized and evolved roles we have as healthcare professionals.  Pharmacists can immunize, perform MTM, and can work with physicians and patients to provide CDTM.

This year, I am serving as APhA-ASP’s Student Political Advocacy Network (SPAN) liaison.  I keep students updated and informed, as I am the link between the national APhA and our chapter.  Since this year is an election year, it provides us greater reasons for looking forward to this semester’s debate

Q: I heard Albany Day is now on May 15 (for those who are interested in lobbying for bills, like the extension of the immunization clause)!  For someone who became involved in a good variety of clubs/organizations earlier than others did, what can you say about the importance of building your curriculum vitae (CV)? What other extracurricular activities are you participating in, on- and off-campus?
A: Yes, Albany Day is now officially on May 15!  It is a GREAT way for all student pharmacists get involved and be the voices supporting our profession.  I think that it is important and essential for everyone to be involved in an activity. When you build your CV by joining honor societies, community service, professional associations, rotation/externship experience, or even work experience, you are also developing yourself.  For me, it honestly is not strictly about building my CV, but about developing myself professionally and expanding my abilities so that I continue to grow, learn, and open all kinds of doors for my future.

Some organizations and extracurricular activities that I have been involved in are APhA-ASP (SPAN Liaison), Raaz (Captain/President of the dance team), Women in Leadership, the Curriculum and Educational Policy in our College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions (student representative / committee member), ISSO, SGI (general member), and Student Ambassadors.  I also volunteer my time for various community service activities.

Q: It certainly is not easy making your way from, say, a general member to holding a top position of leadership of an organization.  Some students may find that leap intimidating, and sometimes feel as if they do not have “what it takes” to direct the group or cannot find that time apart from studying.  As Captain of the Raaz dance team, how do you manage your time, as well as actually find the courage to take that jump to assume a completely new set of responsibilities?
A: I definitely hear that a lot!  What it comes down to is managing your time well, planning ahead of the game, and staying organized.  The process involves learning and growing.  Things flow easier as you understand what works best for you, how you work, and how you envision your future role(s).  I have definitely learned how to better prioritize! [Laughs]

Q: What do you hope to achieve in the future? What are your short-term and long-term goals, both career-related and non-career-related?
A: Ah, that is such a hard question to answer!  I feel like the future has so many undiscovered opportunities and experiences, but I hope to make a difference somewhere and in a life of another.  I do not exactly know the field of pharmacy that I see myself in yet and am keeping my options very much open.  This summer, for one month, I hope to work at a pharmacy in Africa.  I will also continue working at a local CVS/Pharmacy.

Q: Wow, you are working in a pharmacy over the summer in Africa… How did you manage to hear about this opportunity, and what do you expect to learn from it?
A: I randomly stumbled upon this volunteer internship, and I am keeping my fingers crossed so that I can actually go!  (I totally have my fingers crossed right now).  If things do work out and I am able to go, I hope to obtain a greater understanding of how healthcare works in Ghana, as well as the healthcare needs of people in that area.  I would like to interact with many patients to improve some of my skills (as a part of my ongoing quest to become a better future pharmacist and healthcare practitioner).

Q: Within the last five years, what makes you most proud?
A: Five years ago, I was a sophomore in high school, involved in various extracurricular activities like basketball, theatre, and volunteer service.  If you asked me back then where I would be in five years, I would have no idea.  My proudest achievement has been gaining the necessary experiences that have helped me to invest in my future.

Q: I am aware that you participated in last year’s study abroad program for second year students!  If you were to teleport to one city abroad right now, where would it be?  Why would you go there?  Do you have any amazing experiences to share with freshmen?
A: Right now, it would have to be Roma!  I love the people, and the weather is awesome over there right now.  I totally recommend going abroad, if you can!  The whole experience is amazing because you learn so much more than you can possibly imagine from the experience.  It is just indescribable.  I am so glad that our college fits it into our program.  Definitely take advantage of it!

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to have this interview!  Do you have any last words or tidbits of advice for your fellow student pharmacists?
A: Thanks so much for taking the time out to interview me!  Here is a challenge: Take yourself out of your comfort zone, at least once this week.  You will learn something new about yourself.  As for advice, pharmacy school is difficult, but hang-in there when the going gets tough.  What is it that makes it all okay at the end of the day?  What excites you most about becoming a future pharmacist?  Stay involved with the pharmacy profession in some way or another, and keep using it as a motivator throughout school, especially as you enter the tough courses ahead!  Find your passion and go after it!

If you have any additional questions for Ms. Nagraj, you may contact her at [email protected]

Published by Rho Chi Post
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