An Interview with Vibhuti Arya, St. John's University Pharm. D Candidate 2006

by Cathy Sivak
An Interview with Vibhuti Arya, St. John's University Pharm. D Candidate 2006

High school open house leads to pharmacy school scholarship and national student pharmacy leadership

August 4, 2005

Vibhuti Arya admits she didn't know much about the pharmacy profession until a college open house at her high school. A meeting with St. John's University in New York City offered her not only information on the field, but eventually resulted in a scholarship in the Pharm. D program.

Vibhuti quickly became involved in college life, in both pharmacy and campus-at-large opportunities. She joined student government, became the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions Second Year Representative, and went on to become the Junior Senator.

She is also heavily involved in other student activities, serving as an Orientation Leader, as a Resident Assistant for two years, as a Student Ambassador, as a Voices of Victory Gospel Choir performer, and has been involved in many other volunteer activities within and outside of the university.

Within the realm of pharmacy, Vibhuti got involved with the American Pharmacists Association - Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) chapter at SJU. She served as the pre-professional vice president, then membership vice president, and then president. She went on to get involved at the regional level and was elected regional delegate. Currently, she serves as the APhA-ASP national president.

Vibhuti has interned at APhA and at the Office of the Secretary within the Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of Global Health Affairs, working with the Chief Pharmacist Officer/Assistant Surgeon General. "Through these incredible experiences, I have learned much and interacted with key individuals within the profession at APhA and FDA, as well as outside the realm of pharmacy alone, such as the U.S. Surgeon General," she says.

Education Information & Advice

How did you decide to study pharmacy? And how did you find a school

At Brooklyn Technical High School, numerous colleges and universities held on-site interviews, and St. John's was one of the schools. They interviewed me and strongly suggested the Pharm. D program. I wasn't intending to join, but after discussion with my family and finding out about the profession a little bit more, I decided to go ahead with it. St. John's offered me a scholarship and the decision was pretty much final!

What factors should prospective students consider when choosing a school? Are there any different considerations for those who know that they want to specialize in the field of pharmacy

Pharmacy is a profession that offers a myriad of career opportunities. Most people are exposed to only a few, such as being the pharmacist working in community pharmacies, working in a hospital setting, or doing research. In reality, pharmacy is such a dynamic profession, especially right now as the scope of practice continues to expand, and there are incredible opportunities for pharmacists.

The profession offers job security and a career for whatever type of personality one may have: business, research, academia, professional issues, clinical pharmacy within hospitals and clinics, community pharmacy, among so much more. For women, certain practice settings also offer flexible schedules for maternity/family planning.

You are active in pharmacy-related organizations as a student. Tell us about your experiences with these groups. What can Pharm. D students expect as part of student membership experiences

Every experience is what you make it. My involvement within APhA-ASP has been an absolutely amazing experience. All student pharmacists learn the medicinal chemistry, the pharmacology, etc., but being involved in organizations, especially APhA-ASP, gives you the experience and exposure of the big picture of the profession. It will help you understand the profession much better and will give you opportunities to get involved and have your voice heard. It gave me the opportunity to understand all that my profession has to offer.

One of the most rewarding about APhA-ASP is the networking opportunities. I can't begin to tell you how amazing it is to be talking to someone who is so well established in the profession and them telling me about their journey and offering their encouragement and support to me as a student.

What do you think are the most respected and prestigious Pharm. D schools, departments or programs

I think that any program is what you make it. Pharmacy schools offer opportunities, each unique to their own setting, and student pharmacists should take advantage of them as best as possible.

How can prospective Pharm. D students assess their skill and aptitude

One of the best things about the pharmacy profession is that it is such a diverse profession. If one wants a lot of patient interaction, he or she can get involved a setting such as a clinic. If one wants a more business approach, there is opportunity for that as well. Whatever personality you have can definitely fit something within the profession. A person has to be dedicated to go through pharmacy school, and be willing to have new experiences, only because that will produce a fulfilling experience. It takes a lot of hard work to get through pharmacy school, and if you choose not to do something clinical, there are avenues available to do that as well!

What can students applying to Pharm. D programs do to increase their chances of being accepted

The programs are getting quite competitive; so students should talk to admissions officers at the schools that they are thinking of applying to. Involvement is also something that is looked at, and extracurricular activities always enhance character and development. Students should look into the schools to find out what is the best fit for them.

In retrospect, what do you know now that you wish you knew before pursued your Pharm. D education

As a student applying to pharmacy school, it would be good to know what different schools and colleges of pharmacy have to offer within their programs.

You & Your Career

Tell us about your pharmacy career choice.

Because the profession has so much to offer, I stuck with it. I am an educator at heart and may get involved in teaching/development at some point in my career. Pharmacy allows me to have that opportunity to switch tracks within the profession, depending on what point I may be in life and what kinds of endeavors I would like to get involved with.

What steps have you taken as a student to launch your career

Network, network, network!!! It is essential - pharmacy is a small world, and it is very important to network. Getting involved within the profession and staying current is also something that is essential. It is not just who you know; it is who you know and what you know. Who you know will only get you so far, and then you have to show what you have to offer. Hence, experience and networking makes for an excellent combination. Taking the initiative is something that goes very far -grasp the opportunities, and make them the best experiences!

How available are internships and other hands-on training experiences? Any tips for landing

There are many such opportunities available. Students should be assertive and take initiative. Don't be afraid to ask what is available; sometimes, even if a position isn't available, with enough initiative, something can be created for you. People who are looking for opportunities and are committed to making them work can open doors for themselves. Employers look for such initiative.

What do you enjoy most about your hands-on experience so far

It gives me the chance to get away from the classroom and understand pharmacy as a profession. It gives the opportunities for me to get creative and think of my career. Networking is absolutely inevitable with such experiences. Practical experience adds tremendous capabilities to a student.

Who are the biggest inspirations for your career

My family, which has been exceptionally supportive in all that I want to do. Because of my involvement within APhA-ASP and the profession as a whole, I have been so blessed to have interacted with incredible people - everyone serves as my inspiration! I am honored to serve as a Board of Trustee member of APhA, and the individuals on the board are incredible. The APhA staff gives me great motivation and support for my involvement. At a point, you have to sit back and think, 'I must have done something good to deserve such an incredible experience!' I am where I am because of my family, my loved ones, and my professional circle, many of whom have become close friends.

What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future

I'm not quite sure where I will be after I graduate. Most of the people who I know are happy with what they do, but had not ever guessed they would be there. I don't limit myself to any one opportunity so that I am able to take whatever comes my way. Through my rotations this year, I am able to figure out what environment I want to work in and I hope to figure it out soon. I will take any experience and make it the best, because that is how I am. I know that I love to learn and explore, and I will probably be still involved within the profession and, whatever I am doing, will stay involved in educating inner city students (as I am currently) to let them know of the immense opportunities that exist in this world.

Do you feel that is important for someone to be passionate about the field of pharmacy in order to be successful

I think you have to be passionate in everything you do, but that passion is different for each person. Within pharmacy, you serve patients. We are healthcare professionals, no matter how clinical our jobs get. You have got to make the best of what you have, or you will be miserable wherever you are. A positive attitude will make your experiences worth it. We are in a dynamic profession that has much to offer - why not take advantage and make the best of it? So, yes, you have to have a passion to keep going.

Based on your experience as a student and as an active member of APhA, what are some of the trends that you see in the field of pharmacy which could help students plan for the future

Women are taking over! Pharmacy is such a dynamic profession right now. We are observing the expanding role of the pharmacist, and hopefully it will continue this way. You can be as involved with or as removed from clinical medicine as you want, performing in other roles such as the more business aspect. It is an incredible experience to get involved within the profession, and makes my being a future healthcare professional much more rewarding and fun!

What other advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in the field of pharmacy

Make the best of it. No matter what profession/career you end up in, take the initiative and make the best of what the opportunities have to offer.

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