Have you ever wondered what it would be like to pursue a Ph.D. program upon graduating pharmacy school? For this week’s Sit with Senate Alumni Feature, Jessie Kim interviewed Dr. Evan Colmenares, the pharmacist analyst and doctoral student currently working at UNC Health Care and UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, respectively.
Sit with Senate: How did your career path lead you to where you are right now?
Dr. Evan Colmanares: I started pharmacy school thinking that I wanted to be a clinical specialist working in infectious diseases or solid organ transplant. However, I learned about health-system pharmacy administration residencies and realized that would be a career path I would be interested in. I was lucky enough to be selected as a policy, compliance, and medication safety intern at UNC Medical Center, which exposed me more to pharmacy administration and the day-to-day life. I transitioned to being an intern dedicated to the Pharmacy Analytics team, which gave me some of my first exposure to big data within the healthcare setting. I was pretty set on pursuing a HSPA residency until July of my fourth year, when I did a rotation at Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) in Raleigh. I had the opportunity to work with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation grant that they were awarded surrounding the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN). Between my experiences on the analytics team and with CCNC, I realized that I wanted to get additional training in health services research and how big data can be leveraged to improve patient care.
SwS: Can you tell me a little bit about your research that you are currently working on?
EC: Right now, I am working on a few projects as I work towards developing my dissertation proposal ideas. Some of the projects I have worked on since I started my PhD are a pilot study examining delays in time to adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with colon cancer, a needs assessment for suicide prevention training in community pharmacies, and a project looking at incidence of hypoglycemia in patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
SwS: In 2016, you received APhA and ASHP Leadership Awards. Can you tell us a little bit about this award?
EC: I was very honored to receive these two rewards from our national organizations. The APhA Student Leadership Award is given to four student pharmacists in their next to last year of pharmacy school (to account for both three and four year PharmD programs) across the country. While a student pharmacist, I was very involved with APhA, serving as the Region 3 Delegate and a member of the APhA-ASP Policy Standing Committee for two years. The ASHP Student Leadership Award recognizes students with an interest in pharmacy practice in health-systems who have demonstrated leadership ability. As a student pharmacist, I served on the Pharmacy Student Forum Advancement of Pharmacy Practice Advisory Group for three years, with two as chair of the group. While I was very involved at the national and regional levels, this award is for those who exhibit leadership at any level, including the chapter level. However, I want to say that if it weren’t for amazing peers and mentors at UNC, I would have never received either of the awards!
SwS: As a full-time PhD student AND a clinical pharmacist at UNC Health Care, what is your day-to-day like?
EC: It’s very busy, with a lot of travel back and forth! It depends on if I have morning class or not – if I have morning class, I start the day on campus, and drive to work in the afternoon (and vice versa)! I primarily work as a clinical specialist in analytics and outcomes, and our team is located in Morrisville, so it can make for a long day. About once or twice a month, I pick up a clinical decentral pharmacist shift in the evenings to make sure I keep my clinical acumen sharp.
SwS: What is your favorite part about your job?
EC: I like that every day is a little different – there are always different challenges and stakeholders to work with, which keeps things interesting. I also like that data is integral to strong decision making, so it means we are exposed to a lot of the happenings within the department of pharmacy.
SwS: What activities did you participate in as a pharmacy student, and how did they help shape your career or perspective on the profession of pharmacy?
EC: So much (too much)! My primary involvement was with CAPS and Phi Delta Chi, but I also was a part of the Recruitment Ambassadors and Senate. If it wasn’t for CAPS, I would likely not be nearly as knowledgeable about the profession of pharmacy or passionate about policy as I am today. PDC helped me make friends from the start, and it’s a great way to network with student pharmacists across the nation! I am a HUGE advocate of the co-curricular experience, and advise all student pharmacists to find their home in one or more organizations as a part of their pharmacy school experience.
SwS: Last but not least, being consistent with the Carolina Campaign: For All Kind, as a pharmacist, what are you for?
EC: I am for our patients – I think that is what must come first as a pharmacist. Everything a pharmacist does, whether it be in a community pharmacy, health-system setting, or industry has an impact on patients, and we need to remember our commitment to them.