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A Pharmacist for the Patient, A PharmD for Herself

minute read

“I’ve been a practicing pharmacist for thirty-three years,” Sarah Merbach recounts. “I am in this for the patient, I am not in this for any
other reason.” Merbach is a pharmacist at the Mayo Clinic where she does a weekly day-night rotation, seeing patients with urgent needs that she must dose immediately.

She is in pharmacy for the patient. But Merbach is graduating with her PharmD entirely for herself.

Before 2000, pharmacists needed a Bachelor of Pharmacy and a license to practice (an RPh). After 2000, a PharmD became required of new pharmacists but those already practicing were allowed to continue. Merbach was one such pharmacist – but not anymore. She is graduating with a PharmD from CU Pharmacy's North American-Trained PharmD program, a distance program built for pharmacists like Merbach.

Throughout her career she’s worked in hospital pharmacy, long-term care settings, clinical care, and spent decades in pharmacy leadership.

“I’ve always been a natural team player. I am not in this for me,” she said.

Tragically, her husband, already struggling with cancer, passed away from a preventable drug adverse reaction.

“It changed my perspective,” she said. “It made me even more dedicated to the profession of pharmacy, more dedicated to the pharmacist role. I became more enthralled, more engaged than ever.”


Merbach changed roles within pharmacy, she moved twice, and she started her doctoral program.

“I went back to school because I had been in pharmacy management for twenty-five years and when I came back to the clinical world, I really didn’t feel like I was up to speed,” she said. “I felt like an imposter… my integrity would allow me to do nothing less.”

Merbach enjoying scuba with her dive club


New Doctor of Pharmacy Sarah Merbach with a member of her dive team.

Through the process, she has been able to apply what she learns immediately in the field. The fall of 2023, while managing school and work at the Mayo Clinic, she completed an internship with the Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch Program. According to the FDA, MedWatch receives reports from the public and when appropriate, publishes safety alerts for FDAregulated products – everything from blood thinners to gene therapies to hearing aids.

“I saw how incredibly thorough the FDA actually is,” she said. “Even the tiniest detail was reviewed and questioned. Nothing was overlooked.”

Her goal, after graduation, is to find joy.

“Or,” she laughs, “find joy again.”

Merbach believes everyone, especially pharmacists, need to be well rounded because it makes them a better pharmacist. Outside of work, she loves to scuba dive. Each spring she joins her local dive community on an international group trip to the next great destination.

“You always need a stress reliever in your life,” she said. “And I love going with the group. It’s the best thing to do because you have that human connection, and it is so much more fun.”

Th e true challenge for Merbach will be only managing her day job. She gets restless easily, so she is taking that one day at a time but with an updated perspective.

“It’s been an exciting journey for me,” she said. “For me, there are no limits on what I can do.”

Learn More About the North-American Trained PharmD