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Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Their Own Words: Kate

(Editor's note: This is another [awesome] installment in the ongoing series I've titled "In Their Own Words". I'll start by highlighting student committee members and then perhaps introduce you to faculty members as time and space allows. In addition to getting to know a little about them, this will also give you insight into the admissions process. Hopefully, this will also allow you to put real faces/names behind what is often characterized as a mysterious and secret process. Students play a huge role in our annual admissions cycle, serving as full-fledged members of our committee. Students serve a two-year term during their 3rd and 4th years of the program. Many of the same qualities that got them into pharmacy school -- leadership, commitment, maturity, etc. -- are what landed them a spot on the admissions committee. Kate is a great example of one of our students being able to balance it all -- school, family, Admissions Committee, etc.  -- with maturity and grace! I'm so glad we have her perspective on the committee.) 

Name: Kate
Year: Class of 2013 
Hometown: Milford, Michigan
Previous institution attended: Eastern Michigan University
Undergraduate major: Biochemistry

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
My own classmates inspired me to apply. Their diversity of backgrounds and interests excite me about the future of the pharmacy - they are the next leaders in patient care, global health and pharmaceutical research.  Having a part in selecting incoming students ready to contribute and make the most of their time here is the absolute best part of serving on the committee for me!

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
How holistic the process is.  We really take the time to get to know a candidate based on his/her application materials, and we're interested in so much more than your GPA.   I remember how time consuming the application process is, but keep in mind that it's a chance for us to get a sense of who you are, why you chose pharmacy, and what interests you about UCSF.  There is no perfect applicant, so don't be afraid to let us know what makes you unique!

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
Allowing nerves to take over during the interview.  Trust yourself and know that everyone who takes part in our interview day really wants you to succeed (really!) 

What stands out to you on an application?
Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to extracurricular activities.  Having a variety of extracurricular and pharmacy-related activities is certainly a plus, but the individuals who really stand out to me are those who demonstrate sustained dedication to a leadership position or activity.  Applicants who are able to highlight their level of involvement in an essay or during an interview make me take notice. Definitely skip adding any one-day activities you completed during high school unless they are super relevant to pharmacy.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
The two that come to mind are an open mind and the ability to keep focused on the big picture.
  1. The curriculum at UCSF differs slightly from many other schools of pharmacy.  Students are often surprised to learn that we don’t start our therapeutics series right away; rather there is an early emphasis on understanding the basic science behind chemical mechanisms and the pharmacology of drug classes.  Although it’s not always obvious at the time, these courses are foundational building blocks for critical thinking in clinical settings. A tremendous amount of effort goes into curriculum development at UCSF and it’s constantly evolving based on student feedback. The students I see who get the most out of the curriculum have an open mind about the learning process and are able to apply their understanding of basic science to real clinical cases. 
  2. On a day-to-day basis it’s easy to get bogged down with exams and grades and lose sight of the big picture - why you came to school in the first place.  The best coping mechanism when exam stress kicks in is taking a step back to recharge and reconnect with what you see yourself doing after you graduate.  In my experience, students who keep their focus on the big picture are able to adapt well to the normal stressors of graduate school. 
What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
It sounds simple, but take your time researching pharmacy programs to find the best fit for you. In addition to reading admission websites, try to attend an informational day for prospective students and use the opportunity to talk candidly with current students.  Their perspective can be instrumental in deciding if a school is a good cultural and academic fit.  Keep in mind that an ideal program is one you’re confident will support and inspire your career path.  When it comes time to interview, remember, it's a two-way street.  This is your chance to ask us the hard questions based on what you've learned.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
After doing a lot of research, I discovered the Pharmaceutical Sciences Pathway at UCSF, which felt like the perfect fit for my interests. My application focused on how my background at biotech companies prepared me to get the most out of the program, and would allow me to contribute in a unique way to the courses. Fortunately the admissions committee agreed and I have loved the program! 

What do you do for fun? 
As a former bench chemist now sans bench, I’ve taken up cooking to cater to my more creative side.  My appreciation for all things food helped my classmate and I earn the title of UCSF’s Iron Chef 2010 for our gingered mushroom stir-fry (patent pending).  I’m a transplant to the West Coast so when I’m not studying or honing my cooking skills, I love finding hidden gems in the city like Golden Gate Park’s herd of bison, and the world’s first fortune cookie factory!

To read previous "In Their Own Words" postings, visit: 

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