a brief history of pharmacy school, part IV

At the end of the second year of pharmacy school, I went on my hospital rotation. I rotated through a children’s hospital and it was bad. It was really boring. The pharmacists did very little work, and a lot of my time was spent just kind of sitting around pretending to read papers. Physical space was an issue: the pharmacy was crammed into a tiny space of maybe a small apartment, and the techs had to fill in there, the pharmacists had to verify orders in there. They even had a small piece of it carved out to assemble IVs. I got along well with all the pharmacists except one of them.

There was this shitty Chinese pharmacist and she was everything awful about materialism wrapped up in Chanel. It seemed we were getting along okay. Like she was telling me about all the shit she valued in her life (Chanel, her GPA, belittling other professions, her daughter) and everything seemed pretty normal. I went to a few meetings with her and she decided to make up some shit about me and complained over everyone’s heads to the university. She claimed that I was reading a newspaper during a meeting and made it sound like everyone was super engaged during a meeting and I whipped open a copy of newspaper in front of everyone’s faces. In fact I read a newspaper for 5 minutes in the break room before a meeting started. Half the┬ápeople had shown up and they were making small talk. So she blew it up to be a big thing and complained to the university about me. I had to go talk to the people in charge of rotations but I wasn’t punished or anything.

I get the feeling I was used as a pawn in a big game of chess. Like there were office politics and I could be used as a professional indictment of the pharmacist in change of me. Later she tried to buddy up with me and occasionally talk to me. She is the only practicing pharmacist I have ever stonewalled in communication, which is basically when I pretend I’m on trial and everything I say is admissible in court. So yeah. I passed it but this combined with my shitty experience in my previous rotation made me very nervous about rotations in general.

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Third year kinda just blends in together. It’s not as hard as second year and you’ve learned to flash memorize and regurgitate for tests. You’ve achieved a level of veterancy and burnout where you really overcome whatever it throws at you. But not necessarily well, you just kinda get through it. Everyone is just completely burned out. It’s not substantively different from the other years, you just kinda get used to the shittiness. So I don’t have a lot of distinct memories about the first semester.

The second semester was both easy and filled with useless classes. So most people just stopped showing up to class. We had combined attendance of 15 people out of 140 at our early morning nutrition class. I’m included in this. I have distinct memories of playing Borderlands 2 and CSGO and drinking tea at like 4 in the morning as a regular occurrence. I would listen to the lectures online while playing Counterstrike, so on a couple tests I sat down and in addition to recalling the material, I would recall sniping on the roof of cs_assault. Eventually I stayed up so late that I was still awake in time to go to class in the morning so I did that, and the nutrition professor looked at me and smiled because I had clearly been absent all semester but then showed up the last 2 weeks.

Some professors the students never see in real life because of how absentee everyone is. I started the hashtag #checkedout, it was alright. The second semester is also when I had tons of time of play video games so I did that, drastically improving my League of Legends play and hitting plat that season.

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a brief history of pharmacy school, part III

I decided to get into basic science research because that was something that eluded my undergrad. I had always meant to do it but I didn’t really stand out as an undergrad; to this day I’m awful at self-promotion. (Two random other minor regrets: not taking classes in discrete math or composition of verse). Science is okay as theory but it’s all just decontextualized facts memorized from a powerpoint slide unless you’re at the bench doing research. So I had that unquenched thirst to get into the experiments.

To get a research position, you basically go on the faculty bio pages and read about what they’re doing. Usually, you won’t be able to understand any of it because it’ll rely on knowledge in that particular field. You can also look up papers that they’ve recently published to get an idea of what topics they’re studying. But none of that will adequately paint a picture of what’s going on during the day-to-day. Even if you know what techniques they’re using, you don’t know if the equipment is nice, if the machines are far away, if they’re going to teach you well, etc. The most important unknown of all – the lab dynamic. The fish rots from the head down, so if the professor isn’t that engaged, the students won’t be that engaged. He or she might not respond to emails quickly. Or there might be a couple people you really don’t get along with.

After you’ve made peace with the future lab dynamic and take a leap of faith, you just email around until you find a professor who needs someone in their lab. This part takes the longest time because I’m actually ethical so I email one at a time instead of the kids who just mass email. Most people won’t respond which is fine. I give them three days.

So then I met my advisor. I had taken his class and done well. He remember that I sat in the back of the class but I always had the right answer. Back when I was in my first year I did because the curriculum was still science and worth learning. But then the curriculum morphed into memorizing lists of side effects and I mega checked out on that. At the first meeting with my advisor he dictated the project that I would be working on. I assumed since my background was biology that I would start out there, but instead I started out re-learning organic chemistry. I did well in lab at first, getting through the reaction steps much quickly than the previous student. She was a potato of an undergrad who was more interested in being affiliated with research than actually doing anything; she wanted to go to pharmacy school but ended up doing something else.

The lab dynamic was really good. A lot of academic labs are sort of quiet off-putting places with foreign students. My lab was almost all young white people who knew how to be fairly social if desired. The lab next door had basically one of each kind of person; it was very diverse.

The process of science is something that I’ll skim over. I liked it, although it’s frustrating because you can always discover that something doesn’t work. If you’re wagering your doctorate and several years of your early career on a random project and it doesn’t work, you will be a very sad individual. I saw a number of fairly successful students but also less successful ones. Attention to detail, good lab technique, dedication, writing, etc are all important and you need the whole package to do well. cont.