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CU Pharmacy 2018 Alumnus Credits Mentors in Shaping His Career Path in Pharmacy

Dr. Lee Amaya built resilience to overcome adversity and mature as a professional in healthcare

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Written by Jaron Bryant on September 1, 2023

When entering the lobby of the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2018 alumnus Lee Amaya can be found immortalized in rap video he created while a student in the PharmD program, representing the diverse talent among the CU Pharmacy Alumni. Now just a few years later, Dr. Amaya recalls his student experience and those moments that impacted his learning and contributed to his success as a pharmacist today working in the specialty area of Infectious Diseases.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15th, we celebrate Dr. Amaya and other CU Pharmacy alumni of Latina/Latino descent for their significant contributions in the field of Pharmacy and to the community.

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What are you currently doing as a pharmacy professional and how did you progress to where you are today?

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Lee Amaya, PharmD, BCIDP, AAHIVP

I am currently the Infectious Diseases (ID) Pharmacy Specialist in the oncology patient population with a focus in malignant hematology, blood & marrow transplantation (BMT), and cellular therapy at the Miami Cancer Institute (MCI) of Baptist Health South Florida (BHSF). I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of New Mexico. I then went on to obtain my Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2018. After graduation, I completed PGY1 pharmacy training at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska and then PGY2 ID pharmacy residency training at Beaumont Hospital (Corewell Health) in Royal Oak, Michigan. At MCI, I serve as the co-chair of the MCI Antimicrobial Stewardship (ASP) Collaborative where I work with the interdisciplinary team to develop and implement institutional antimicrobial use guidelines, protocols, and policies. I also serve as a preceptor for pharmacy interns and residents for a rotation in Immunocompromised ID. 

I am in my current position today thanks to many professors and mentors I’ve had the privilege to learn from on my journey, including those at CU! My interest in ID was first cultivated in pharmacy school and blossomed during the ID elective class during P3 year. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the impact that the Pharmacy Rap Music Video I created for the school in 2018 had on my career. After the video was posted on CU’s social media platforms, I cold-emailed Tim Gauthier (known as @IDStewardship on Instagram) the video and he ended up sharing it on all of his social media platforms. A few years later, Tim contacted me to interview for an ID/ASP pharmacist position at BHSF after seeing my CV up on ASHP’s website for PPS at Midyear. Now Tim is my manager and I get to nerd out about ID with him on a daily basis!

What is different about the person you are today compared to the person you were while in school?

I am much more mature now than I was in pharmacy school. I went through a lot of adversity and challenging situations during my residency training that molded me into a more resilient man. Moving to unfamiliar areas without any family or friends forced me to become more self-sufficient and to find a community of people who I could lean on for support in times of hardship. Following residency training, I have cultivated other aspects of my life that I was previously neglecting. I have participated in two mission trips, one in Honduras and the other in the Dominican Republic to help serve our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate and I have become more active in my church community by participating in several ministries, including helping lead RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). I am also recently engaged and set to be married in January 2024!

What has been a defining moment for you as a seasoned professional?

Because the COVID-19 pandemic began while I was completing my PGY2 ID pharmacy residency training, I became heavily relied upon by our healthcare teams quickly. My residency program director adjusted the rotation schedule so that I could focus solely on the COVID-19 pandemic for an additional month and assist our ID and critical care physicians. I was also called upon to create and deliver a presentation to our entire health system regarding the clinical evaluation and potential therapeutics of COVID-19. I believe the pandemic was a blessing in disguise that gave me the opportunity to showcase my steadfast attitude and develop my clinical acumen which have given me the confidence to build an ASP program at a new blood & marrow transplant and cellular therapy center.

What inspired you to attend the CU Pharmacy program and what was your experience while in the program?

When I was first looking for schools, I applied to a handful around the country. I ultimately ended up choosing CU because of its proximity to my family in New Mexico, in addition to the outstanding faculty. When I was there, the professors were (and still are!) some of the best in the country. They are well published and are active in many pharmacy societies, so I knew that I would be receiving some of the best pharmacy training in the nation. Now looking back on my experience at CU, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been pushed to become the best version of myself, both inside and outside of the pharmacy profession. The school offered us so much support that I feel privileged to have attended CU!

What is your proudest moment and your favorite thing about working in the pharmacy profession, and how are you making a difference in your career?

Since starting my position at MCI, I have worked in creating and implementing antimicrobial order sets, guidance documents, protocols, and policies for our immunocompromised patients. One of my proudest moments is championing improved management of febrile neutropenia that is an oncologic emergency our patients experience frequently. I analyzed all the relevant guidelines and literature to present the best evidence-based care at countless committees and ensured approvals at all levels of leadership and interdisciplinary departments. I believe my persistence and passion to elevate patient care has left an impact here at BHSF. The thing I love most about being an ID pharmacist is being able to precept trainees and be an example for them to look up to!

What sage advice would you pass on to current and future students that was helpful for you in preparing for the job market?

Life is full of unknowns and it’s not always possible to prepare for the future. If I had to give advice, it would be to never forget to be grateful for what you have. Having gratitude will give you peace of mind and others will gravitate to your positive demeanor, thereby giving you an advantage in today’s job market. 

“Rethink Your Success Mindset: Gratitude is the attitude, fuel and catalyst that transforms life's challenges into wisdom.” 
Tony Dovale

Watch Dr. Amaya's Rap Video