September 28, 2010

A Welcome to the Class of 2014


On Monday, September 27, the UW School of Pharmacy welcomed its newest class of Pharm.D. candidates at its annual Welcome to the Profession Ceremony, otherwise known as the “White Coat Ceremony.”

The theme of the event was based on a quote by writer and artist Mary Anne Radmacher: “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”

Fourth-year student Brent Leithauser was one of the speakers at the event. Below was his message to the incoming class:

Thank you Dean Baillie. It’s my great honor to be here today. And welcome to the Class of 2014!

It was three short years ago that my classmates and I sat where you are today, put on our white coats, and listened to Dr. Dana Hammer read each introduction to our classmates and families. 

As students, we are faced with countless choices: to join a student organization or not to? To attend a conference or work a weekend shift at my internship site? To spend an evening out with friends, or put in those hours studying? Sometimes the most important thing to do is to get out and exercise, and sometimes nothing is more important than sleep. This week you’ve probably already been faced with some of those choices.

I’ve found that with academics and other pursuits, it’s easy to follow my routine. Before that happens to you, I’d just like to say a word in support of all those unfamiliar extracurricular activities. This program offers a wide array of experiences that build your skills as a student pharmacist, as well as your bonds with classmates. A few activities to consider include heartburn and diabetes awareness events; blood pressure and flu shot clinics; student professional pharmacy organizations and their respective conferences; patient counseling, business plan, and clinical skills competitions; social organizations such as Lambda Kappa Sigma and Kappa Psi; Border to Border; Legislative Day; and when the end of the year rolls around, think about becoming a mentor for a student in the class behind you. Some of you will become officers of your professional organizations; some of you will be academic leaders in the Rho Chi Society; some of you may travel overseas to bring pharmacy services to underserved populations.

All of the opportunities I’ve taken part in came at the expense of other alternatives. Time management is one challenge among many that I have faced in pharmacy school, and I thought I’d say a word this afternoon about challenges.

Lately when I encounter difficult situations—the ones that feel like I’m standing on the edge of something, looking into the void—I’ve been trying to keep a good attitude. Sometimes I’m able to just charge in, headlong. Sometimes I have to talk myself into it, and I remind myself how it feels to know I’ve given something my best. Some of the time, my best turns out to be alright.

Then there are what I think of as “the learning experiences.”As a fourth-year student, I’ve recently started my rotations, and I find I have a lot of learning experiences. I think the way that tough moments are handled is at the heart of what makes a good pharmacist.

I‘ve spent much of the last three years worrying about the prospect of being wrong, or of not knowing an answer. While the prospect of error brings me chills at times, I understand that one of the important skills is learning how and when to say “I don’t know.” I want to be unafraid to admit when I don’t have an answer, or when I’m wrong. I want to listen twice as much as I speak. I want to be the provider who will have the courage stick it out, even when a problem seems too difficult. I want to remember to smile when I greet a patient and tell them my name. I want to always remember that the patient I’m speaking to is a person who may be tired, frustrated, or suffering, but needs the best information I can offer. I want to remember to give back to those who helped me get to where I am, and to lift up those in future generations of our community and profession.

At a recent school event hosted by the Pharmacy Leadership Society, the CEO of our state pharmacy association related a conversation he had with his professor, Al Ellsworth, before the beginning of his fourth yearrecommending that he not hold back, and to challenge himself during his rotations. I thought about this, and decided I’d rather look back on this year—and my career—knowing I had challenged myself to grow as much as I could.

As I move past fears of what I consider a complex and constantly morphing discipline, I recognize that a profession with challenging questions is a blessing, and am reminded that this is one of the reasons I’ve chosen a career in patient care. I know I can look forward to years of challenge in this field, and that it’s one I can be proud to serve in.

When I work with an inspiring professor or preceptor, I hope that I will see a day when I can live up to his or her example. As a student at the UW School of Pharmacy, with mentors you will soon come to know, I‘m proud to at least have an idea of what it means to be a great pharmacist. To all of you here, good luck with your own learning experiences, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Brent Leithauser, ’11


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