Meet Michelle Ton, Class of 2020, from Nokesville, VA! Michelle is easily described by her peers as one of the most positive, cheerful, and warm classmates who always knows how to have fun – give her a date and location, and she will definitely find something random and exciting to do! Some of the cool things she has done include going to goat yoga (she had a baby goat jump on her back) and going axe throwing. One fun fact: she had dinner with DiPiro, author of our Pharmacotherapy textbook, once! At ESOP, Michelle co-created the Student Pharmacists Opioid Misuse Prevention (StOMP) Task Force and was selected for the prestigious Johns Hopkins internship. Check out Sit with Senate chair Clara Kim’s interview with Michelle Ton.
Sit with Senate: What motivated you to pursue pharmacy? Why ESoP?
Michelle Ton: My interest in pursuing a career in pharmacy stemmed from a year-long internship during my undergraduate education at a startup preclinical pharmaceutical company. My role was to maintain and analyze mouse models of human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The mice received either experimental medication or placebo. Over time, I saw improvements both physically and socially in mice that were given the treatment.
The opportunity to see medication’s ability to heal internal functions was monumental in my decision to pursue a career in pharmacy. My time at this internship exposed me to the benefits of medication and its potential to improve life. When it came time to decide where to attend pharmacy school, I narrowed it down to UNC and another school near my hometown in Virginia. Ultimately, the charisma of the students and faculty, endless leadership opportunities for students, and novel curriculum schedule, drew me towards UNC.
SwS: When was a rewarding moment from rotation?
MT: This past fall, I was completing my community IPPE rotation at an independently owned compounding pharmacy in Wilmington, NC. In my last month of rotation, Hurricane Florence was expected to hit the area and I experienced the role a pharmacy plays during natural disasters and emergency preparedness. People were rushing into the pharmacy to get their medications filled, refilled, or transferred before they evacuated; it was crowded from wall to wall with frantic and worried patients. However, the pharmacist and pharmacy technicians remained calm. Seeing their dedication to their patients and putting the patients’ needs before their own was very impactful.
During this time, I was in charge strictly of compounding. Typically, this pharmacy receives around 8-10 compounding prescriptions a day, but on the days leading up to the mandatory evacuation, I compounded around 50 prescriptions daily. My ability to positively contribute to the operations of the pharmacy and provide comfort to others in a time of need was a truly rewarding experience.
SwS: What is your favorite organization that you are currently a part of, and why is it your favorite?
MT: In Spring 2018, Kelsey Mueller, Laura Bobbitt, and I created an organization called Student Pharmacists Opioid Misuse Prevention (StOMP) Task Force. The basis of this organization stemmed from mutual feelings that we, as student pharmacists, are not exposed to the depth of the opioid crisis or what role the pharmacist can play in alleviating or exacerbating the issue. We wanted to fight the stigma of addiction and provide student pharmacists with the tools necessary to combat the opioid crisis upon graduation.
StOMP is a non-membership organization that hosts educational events, often in collaboration with other organizations and health professional schools, which are open to all students. We believe that everyone can benefit from learning about the opioid crisis and various techniques to prevent further damage. Our past events included naloxone training, naloxone kit making, and presentations about syringe exchanges and new laws restricting opioid prescribing. Additionally, we’ve worked with the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists (NCAP) to create a continuing education workshop that discusses how pharmacies and community partners can aid in combating the opioid crisis by becoming a syringe exchange location, medication drop-off location, etc. Recently, we’ve been asked to speak at an Opioid Summit about our work with NCAP. StOMP is my favorite organization because it enhanced my ability to follow my passions and create tangible, positive effects on society through starting a grassroots movement.
SwS: Where is your favorite restaurant/food/cafe in Chapel Hill (or general RTP area)?
MT: Taco El Niño is my favorite taco food truck in the area! It’s at the corner of South Merritt Mills and Franklin St. I highly recommend “the pastor” if you eat meat and enjoy spicy food. I used to go there so often that the employees knew my name and my order!
SwS: What is your favorite drug/disease state, and why?
MT: This doesn’t answer the question but my favorite black box warning is amputations with canagliflozin. When I first read this warning, it completely caught me off-guard and made me wonder why canagliflozin was still on the market.
My favorite “drug history” I’ve learned thus far is that Van Gogh’s Starry Night, one of my favorite paintings, might have been created while he was experiencing digoxin toxicities.