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Beyond BMSc - interviewing Waterloo Pharm

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Hey everyone! Welcome back to Beyond BMSC. Today, we will be hearing from an exceptional individual who went to Waterloo's School of Pharmacy and has now entered the professional world as a pharmacy manager! Without further ado, lets begin!

To hear the audio version of the following conversation, please visit us on Spotify:

UWaterloo PharmD

Interviewer: Grace Huang

Interviewee: Rani Odesh

Grace: Hello and welcome to Beyond BMSc where we interview past medical science students who are pursuing graduate programs to answer your questions for post-BMSc pathways. My name is Grace and today we’re joined by Rani. Hi Rani, how are you doing today?

Rani: Hi good morning, how are you?

Grace: I’m good as well. I’ll start off with a quick question. Tell me a little bit about yourself, including the module during your time in medical sciences, what program you pursued after, and if you have anything else interesting about yourself, like maybe a club or a hobby you were on.

Rani: I’m a Western alumni, graduated in 2013, part of the med sci program. After that I went to pharmacy school at the University of Waterloo, and graduated from that in 2018. Currently I’m a pharmacy manager for a community pharmacy close by. Things I did while I was in med sci, I was always playing sports, so I was always kind of playing soccer. So that was one of the things I really enjoyed doing while I was in the program.

Grace: Yeah, that’s awesome to hear! So a bit more about the PharmD program that you did at Waterloo - what are some things that you liked about it, and how was the overall experience, maybe compared to your time in medical sciences?

Rani: Yeah, so the difference between doing an undergraduate degree and a professional degree is that a lot of things you learn in a professional degree program is really applicable to what you would do on a daily basis when you start working. So the PharmD program at Waterloo, it stands for a Doctor of Pharmacy, you get a doctorate degree after your time there, the four years. So some of the things I really liked was that the specific program was focused on getting some work skills, so the co-op program, which integrates work terms within your studies. It allows you to kind of apply for jobs, you know work those jobs during school, and earn experiences and networking throughout your program. So by the time you graduate, you’re really kind of ready to go and start your career right away, which is one of the things I really liked about the program while I was there.

Grace: Yeah that’s really good to hear. Just a bit more about the program itself, can you briefly go through the structure, like you know, how many years it was, what it was like in first year, compared to the last year of the program?

Rani: Yeah, sure! This is specific about the pharmacy program in Waterloo. It’s basically… it’s continuous for four years, you don’t get any breaks, however it kind of varies from one year to another. The first year is three semesters, back to back to back, followed by a work term, followed by a study term, then a work term, then a study term, then a work term, then your last and final year, you just do two months of schooling, followed by six months of clinical rotations to kind of build on your skills to make sure you’re ready to start your career right away. So that’s how it works. In the beginning you do kind of more theory - the first maybe year or two - and the more you progress throughout the program, you kind of get your clinical skills, your patient care skills, kind of more applying the things you’ve learned in the first couple of years. So that's kind of how the structure of the program works.

Grace: Okay, yeah, that’s really interesting to hear about! So the next question I have for you is what was it about your program, so I guess pharmacy in general, and also specifically at Waterloo, that made you decide to pursue it?

Rani: So it really started off… I mean when I was in med sci, I don’t think I had, just like probably some of the listeners listening to this, probably don’t have a clear idea of what they wanted to do. So when I was in med sci I had two minors - I was in medical science and pharmacology. When I started doing more pharmacology, I thought this is really ool, this is really something I wanted to pursue, which sparked my interest in doing pharmacy school. So that’s kind of what led me to pursue pharmacy. What was the question you were asking me exactly, was it what I like about working right now, or while I was in the program?

Grace: Yeah so I guess the question right now is just, what was it specifically about your program at Waterloo that made you choose it, maybe over some other pharmacy programs?

Rani: Sure, okay so in Ontario there’s really two pharmacy schools, one in Toronto and one in Waterloo. The main difference between the two, and I mean the program in Toronto is really great as well, but the one in Waterloo really has that co-op experience that no other school really offers, which really builds on your skills. You’re competing with your classmates for job positions specifically, posted for the students. So It looks like it’s a real life competition for a bunch of jobs, and everybody ends up getting one for the work term that we do during our schooling. So I think it was really beneficial to prepare you for the real world where you’re applying for jobs, and then you get interviews, you’re competing against others. The stakes are not as high as real life, for example, but it’s definitely something that gives you that edge, gives you that practice so that when you go out into the real world, it’s something that really gives you that extra benefit and extra skill that you have to perform better when you’re doing these interviews, when you’re getting those jobs. So a lot of the graduates from my class - I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a job right now or a career that they don’t like. Most of them ended up getting what they wanted. It’s just because our schooling really allowed us to gain that extra skill while we were in school.

Grace: Yeah that’s really good to hear! I think the co-op program sounds like it was really helpful, in terms of gaining skills and also helping you prepare for the real world, so that’s really good. The next question I have for you is, what are some things you wish you knew before choosing the program? So I guess it could apply to a wide range of things, maybe in terms of the application process, or anything after that as well.

Rani: Okay, so the main thing I would say is, while you’re in school, it’s really kind of intense, especially during the study terms. The study terms, you know they’re three to four months, and while you’re there, they're really kind of condensed and really intense. One of the things I wished I knew is how you kind of forget about your social life a little bit while you’re there. You have these intense exams every other week. So every other weekend you’re basically locked in, trying to study everything to prepare for the following week’s exam, so you kind of don’t get those breaks. And with the program not having summer breaks... I mean it’s nice to have a work term, but it feels like it was non-stop. So one of the things I wished I had done is kind of done some traveling prior to starting, because once you start you’re kind of locked in for those three and a half to four years and you’re not able to do so much. So that’s kind of a tip for someone expecting to start the program, it’s something to look into. Although right now it’s really hard to get out of the country due to travel restrictions, but it is one of the things I wish I knew. So that’s before starting the program, and during the program it’s just how intense it is. But at the end of the day, you end up with a degree you’re proud to have and with a career you really enjoy doing.

Grace: Yeah, so back to the workload thing, how would you say the workload was in pharmacy school compared to your time in the medical sciences program?

Rani: It’s kind of different because the way you think about it when you’re doing the undergraduate degree, you’re trying to get the best possible grades, so you can have a good average, so you can apply to hese professional schools. It’s kind of a different kind of pressure when you’re in pharmacy school. Grades don’t matter so much, it's’ just the ability to learn work skills while you’re in the program and trying to apply them. There’s more, kind of a, I would say more of a mix of art and science while you’re in school because it’s just life skills - like people skills, as opposed to the undergraduate degree you’re mostly learning about theory and then kind of trying to study to get the best grades in your exams. It’s a different kind of pressure, and as I said, it’s a different intensity. During the study terms I really was looking forward to work terms while I was in school because it’s less of a pressure, just you go to work and then you come home. While you’re in the study terms, which is like four months or so, it’s just really intense studying every other weekend and almost everyday. The pressure is different and the stakes are different as well, so it’s really hard to compare the two as well, so these are kind of the specific things about each program.

Grace: Okay yeah, that’s good to hear for sure. So now I guess moving forward a couple years, you’re working as a pharmacy manager after graduating from pharmacy school. What are some highlights from your career so far?

Rani: I mean yeah, I graduated in 2018, I started working right away. I had a job lined up even before I graduated so I hit the ground running right away. A year into my career, the pandemic hit. So pharmacies were kind of the few places that stayed open, so we kind of took on a lot of more responsibilities than what we’ve done before. So one of the major highlights for the past year, I would say, is participating in the COVID vaccination program. It’s never stopped since we started in April 2020 up until now. It’s kind of why I’m so proud to be part of it. You really feel like you’re making a difference by being in that program, by being in that kind of career as well where you’re trying your best to end the pandemic and helping out others. So being part of the vaccination program, obviously providing advice, medication advice, and health advice in general, when a lot of clinics or offices have shut their doors, we were still open to provide that care for our patients. So being part of that has really made me proud and really happy to be in that career right now.

Grace: Yeah, definitely, I think the work that all pharmacists are doing across the country is really important, especially during the pandemic. There's so many more responsibilities that you guys have. Hopefully it hasn’t been too stressful! But I guess the last question I have for you is, what final words do you have to say to some of the medical sciences students who might be interested in pursuing pharmacy, but they’re kind of confused or uncertain?

Rani: So some advice, maybe what I would’ve given myself is, just keeping your options open. So me for example, when I was applying to pharmacy schools, I wasn’t just restricting it to Ontario for example, I even applied to United States at the time. Just make sure you’re kind of looking at all the requirements of all the different schools, making sure you'd be eligible to apply to all these different programs. To make sure you have the best chance to end up somewhere you want to be. So that’s kind of a key thing to know - if you restrict your options and you just focus on a certain course load to take so you can meet a certain school’s requirements, but then the competition is really high and then you don’t get it - I think keeping your options open is a better strategy than restricting yourself to kind of one school. Given that, I think also looking at each specific school and kind of learning more about it, can really serve you during the application and even the admission process. Learn as much as you can about the program. That way when you go through the application process, highlight these things during the admission process, it really looks good on the people looking at those applications to make you stand out as well.

Grace: Yeah, so thank you so much Rani for taking time out of your busy day to tell our listeners some important information. We really appreciated it. And with that, that is BMSA’s podcast for the PharmD program at the University of Waterloo, speaking with Rani. Check back on our website and social media platforms for other programs with new guests each week. Thank you for listening and we hope this has been helpful.

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