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CU Pharmacy Alumna Finds Success in Stepping Outside Her Comfort Zone

For Lana Al-Omar, a change in scenery brought about a shift in her pharmacy career focus

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Written by Jaron Bryant on April 3, 2023

In celebration of Arab-American Heritage Month this April, we feature 2016 CU Pharmacy alumna Lana Al-Omar as the Alumni Spotlight. Lana reflects on her time as a student on campus, catching us up to date on where she is today, along with sharing pearls of wisdom to guide future pharmacists.

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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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Lana Al-Omar, PharmD '16

After completing my residency at Denver Health Medical Center, I then transitioned to a PRN pharmacist and then an overnight pharmacist. The experience was invaluable in that it allowed me to care for a diverse patient population, including pediatric and ICU patients. I then obtained Board Certification in Pharmacotherapy and shortly after, accepted a clinical pharmacist position at UC San Diego Health. I currently float in different operational and clinical areas within the hospital. While working at UC San Diego Health, I developed an interest for conducting controlled substance audits and drug diversion. I assisted our previous narcotic pharmacist in conducting narcotic audits and with narcotic waste management. Over time, I become more and more passionate about drug diversion compliance and today, I am the lead narcotic pharmacist at UC San Diego Health. 

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

In pharmacy school, my life was centered on school. I was hyper-focused on trying to achieve my academic goals as well as increasing my involvement in pharmacy-related activities. If I felt that I wasn’t meeting my goal or if I had received negative feedback from a colleague, I would internalize it to a point where it became unhealthy. Today, I prioritize my mental health and reflect on my mistake by writing down a few things that I could have done better. I think this practice has allowed me to see things through a bigger lens as I use my mistakes as a tool for self-improvement. 

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

A defining moment for me was when I had accepted the clinical pharmacist job offer at UC San Diego Health. This decision meant moving my family from Denver to San Diego. At that time, my son was 3 years old and my daughter was 5 months old. This also meant that I was moving away from many things that I felt so comfortable with. I worked at Denver Health for seven years as an intern, resident, PRN pharmacist, and overnight pharmacist. I not only liked my job, but I really liked the people I worked with. I was also leaving behind my home in Denver and didn’t know what to really expect since the last time I lived in San Diego, I was only 8 years old. However, thoughts of being closer to my immediate family in San Diego and of working for a large academic institution like UC San Diego Health, kept me in high spirits. 

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

During the time that I was applying for pharmacy schools, I was living in Denver. I applied to the CU Pharmacy program as an early decision candidate. During my interview at CU, the professors seemed to be extremely engaged with their students. The staff at admissions did, too, and the interactions I witnessed were positive and personable. I also liked that CU Pharmacy’s professors were staff at the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, which is also a large, academic medical center. The collaboration between the school and the teaching hospital meant that professors brought with them real-world application of pharmacy to the classroom. Overall, my experience with the CU Pharmacy program has been very positive. I felt that the school’s curriculum prepares students well in becoming confident, licensed healthcare professionals. I also enjoyed the opportunities offered by the program such as attending the University of Utah’s School of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction week-long program and teaching 3rd-grade students about medication safety. 

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

My proudest moment was when my PGY-1 residency manuscript got accepted for publication. I had spent a tremendous amount of time scrutinizing each sentence, reviewing and editing each section of the manuscript, and continuously asking for feedback from my peers and colleagues. It did not get accepted by the first 2 publishers that reviewed it, but it did not deter or discourage me. Once it did get accepted, it felt extremely rewarding. My husband framed the article and I keep it as a memoir. 

My favorite thing about the pharmacy profession is that there are so many different opportunities and avenues within the field. If you want a change, you can easily do so without having to change your profession. 

I believe that I am making a difference in my career with my involvement in creating a simplified controlled substances auditing process for pharmacists. I also believe that I am making a difference by educating my colleagues and other personnel from different departments on the appropriate handling of narcotics.  

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

I encourage current pharmacy students to participate or volunteer in unique professional activities that they are not familiar with or don’t necessarily think that they will feel comfortable with at first glance. As a student, I ran for Immunization Chair and found myself at the door of Colorado Senator Diana DeGette advocating for funding for life-saving immunizations in third-world countries. I also joined the Shot@Life campaign and with the help of my colleagues, we raised funds for the campaign by hosting a Yoga event on campus and by selling mystery goodie bags to our classmates. This experience helped solidify my passion for pharmacy and I think it showed when it came time for interviewing for pharmacy jobs.


For future students, the work that you put into this profession will be what you get out of it. In this profession, we are always students and we are always learning. Let others see that passion. It will guarantee your pharmacy dream job. 

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