Joy Wang, USC Doctor of Pharmacy student and Albert Schweitzer Fellow, is working to become a pharmacist who does more than dispense prescribed medications. In her first year at USC, Wang became involved with a 10-week smoking cessation program that brought pharmacy students to Skid Row to work with residents.
“It was a really amazing experience for me,” she said. “We’re very privileged as graduate students who can pursue education, but there are so many people close to us who have nothing. We’re able to use our knowledge to help them.”
After becoming director of the smoking cessation program in her second year, Wang realized there was a need for the program beyond Skid Row. Through the Schweitzer fellowship, which aims to improve the health of vulnerable people with the help of professionals skilled in creating positive change, Wang was able to expand the 10-week program to the Queens Care Family Clinic for low-income patients in Eagle Rock, Calif.
“Working in a long-term program has really helped me learn about my patients and how to better individualize treatment for them,” said Wang, one of 250 students to win the national fellowship. “In class, I sit and learn about all of these diseases, but I don’t really have a face I can connect to. When I go to the clinic, I see patients and what they’re going through.”
After she graduates, Wang wants to be an ambulatory care pharmacist who works directly with patients in clinics to adjust their medications after they’ve received a diagnosis from a primary care physician.
“I would like to develop that patient relationship,” Wang said. “That’s really rewarding, making a difference in someone’s life.”
Wang first became interested in pharmacy in eighth grade and then participated in a medical academy program during high school in Bakersfield. Calif. She is currently in her second year of a three-year pharmacy internship at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and in her third year of the USC PharmD program.
Wang credits her mentors, including PharmD’s Steven Chen and Edith Mirzaian and Schweitzer project site mentor Ying Wang for helping her in her USC studies and extracurricular activities.
“With Joy, I didn’t have to do much,” Chen said. “She has good ideas — she just needed the right venue. She really does have a true grace and humility about her that I appreciate.”
Next year, Wang will be starting rotations in her pharmacy program. After that, she intends to pursue a residency prior to working professionally. She hopes pharmacists will be better utilized after ObamaCare goes into effect in 2014.
“I hope that we will be able to do more because right now we’re kind of limited in our scope of practice,” Wang said. “We are well-trained, and we can contribute a lot.”