Akshara Kumar is a current PY2 (Class of 2021) on our Chapel Hill campus. From Reading, PA, she completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh in PA where she earned her BS in Molecular Biology. She was co-captain of an award-winning dance team and a heavily involved member of the Indian Classical Dance circuit in college! Akshara also enjoys reading autobiographies, volunteering in the community with the Refugee Community Partnership, running, cooking & baking, and is an avid fan of comedy TV shows. For today’s student spotlight feature, Sit with Senate’s Megan Tran interviewed Akshara.
Sit with Senate: How has your perspective on the profession of pharmacy changed since joining the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy community?
Akshara Kumar: “Coming to ESOP has taught me about how many ways pharmacists can be involved with patients on a personal level. Working in SHAC and watching pharmacists’ relationships with other professionals made me realize that pharmacists have a wealth of knowledge that can actually make care more accessible for patients. Most of all, we can empower our patients to be true agents of their health. It feels really good that I am able to draw upon the same excitement that my mom has instilled in me when it comes to just helping people live their best lives.”
Akshara shares that she grew up in PA, and she watched her mom practice pharmacy at a local Rite Aid. Her understanding of the pharmacy profession was based on everything her mom did. Pharmacists worked long hours, counted pills, occasionally gave shots, but were often overworked with a lack of supportive staff. However, despite these negative images, what drew her to the field was how excited her mother became when she spoke about her patients and their lives outside of their health. She would enthusiastically share moments of her personable conversations with her patients, and Akshara believe this is where she developed her love for people. Her desire to get into healthcare also stems from this personal experience.
SwS: What area/field of pharmacy are you interested in and why?
AK: “I’m currently interested in ambulatory care, because my main reason for being in healthcare is to work with people to help them take care of themselves. The idea of applying clinical knowledge in a setting where I could develop relationships with my patients and watch their progress sounds very rewarding to me. I want to be a part of my patients’ growth and help them gain confidence in how they take care of their health. I love being able to solve problems for my patients in real time. Having the opportunity to volunteer for SHAC Clinic and at Outreach, has solidified my desire to work with the underserved community. It has also given me the freedom to explore my passion for serving others, and it has been a rewarding experience. As such, ambulatory care is my main priority.”
SwS: What was the most memorable part of your trip to Kenya with fellow classmates?
AK: “I don’t know if I could pick just one experience! There were so many moments during this trip that were ‘pinch me’ moments. For example, seeing cheetahs hunt a pack of gazelles, watching lions and their cubs graze, seeing Mt Kilimanjaro’s peak through the clouds, the beautiful beaches and amazing food, eating in a cave — there are literally too many things!”
Akshara shares that it took about six months to plan out this trip. They had many different activities planned out daily, and there was never a dull moment. What a wonderful experience!
SwS: What quick tips do you have to navigate pharmacy life at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy?
AK: “Studying pharmacy here at ESOP shouldn’t be about competition, so in order to be able to make friends, I’ve learned that you have to put positive energy out in order to get good energy back. Be supportive and empathetic to others, celebrate each other’s successes, and be a shoulder and a listener to those that need it. At the end of the day, we’re all here to succeed and it’s tough being a student here — why make it worse by contributing to a harmful culture of punishing others for their strengths?”
Akshara gives insight to why she has this viewpoint. While competition can be a good thing, it can also have its toxic side. Coming from an Asian community, there are expectations that are instilled into us growing up, where we have to be better than other people. We are expected to get a certain grade or certain achievements. Also being from Asian descent, I related to Akshara’s experience. She quickly realized how much pressure it can have on an individual, and she realized how detrimental it can be for a person’s well-being. As such, one should not lose themselves by comparing themselves to others. Fostering a supportive energy and learning from one another is a great way to achieve personal growth.
SwS: What are three essential items that you always bring to school?
AK: “Coffee, I can’t live without coffee. My headphones, because background noise helps me study. A picture of God in my wallet, because I think it is important for me to be thankful for everything I’ve had in my life, and it’s a good connection to my faith and family.”
SwS: How would you explain the career of a pharmacist to the general public in ten words or less?
AK: “We’re experts in medicine, and here to advocate for you!”
We couldn’t agree with you more Akshara! We are so grateful that you could share your passion for others here with Sit with Senate today!
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