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2003 CU Pharmacy Alumna Overcomes through Resilience and Perseverance

Alumna persevered through cancer diagnosis as a student and continues the fight 20 years later

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Written by Jaron Bryant on April 30, 2023

Giving up has never been an option for 2003 graduate Hien Pham. Not even a cancer diagnosis could disrupt her goal of becoming a pharmacist and living life to the fullest.

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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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 Hien Pham, PharmD '03

Currently, I am on leave due to health reasons. On July 19, 2021, I was diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 gastric cancer, and am now receiving palliative care. Before this, I had worked as a clinical pharmacist at Ascension Providence Hospital for 16 years.
(I was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of bile duct cancer, on the first day of my fourth-year pharmacy rotation. With this diagnosis, I was given a prognosis of six months to live. Later in July 2021, I was diagnosed with a rare form of stage 4 stomach cancer, inoperable Signet Ring Cell adenocarcinoma. The prognosis for this was a year and a half to two years if treatment was pursued).

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

When I was in school, I felt uneasy about what lay ahead. Trying to balance three jobs and studies left me with no time to relax. Now, I'm more optimistic and try to find the positives in every situation.

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

One day while doing rounds on the oncology floor, I encountered a medical student who was being treated for breast cancer and she seemed disheartened. I shared my own experience with cancer and it seemed to lift her spirits. She thanked me for bringing her some hope. I have always known that it was my purpose to assist those suffering from cancer. As a pharmacist and cancer survivor, I am able to draw upon my expertise and personal experience to provide support.

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

I chose CU Pharmacy School due to its top tier status and exceptional educational offerings, including experiential learning opportunities. Despite being accepted to Auburn and Ole Miss Pharmacy Schools, I ultimately decided that CU was the best choice for me.

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?

At the start of the Covid pandemic, I organized a fundraising effort and recruited people to donate face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, etc. to hospitals, cancer centers, veterans, and police departments both locally and nationally. I also enlisted volunteers to sew cloth masks and headbands with buttons for healthcare workers. Over the course of one month, we produced 6,700 cloth masks, and 366 headbands and purchased 136 face shields for donation.

In 2005, I began my employment at Providence Hospital (now known as Ascension Providence Hospital). Three years later, in 2008, my colleagues nominated me for the "Service of the Poor" award, and I was chosen as the winner. In September of 2022, I was humbled to be the recipient of the Ascension Rx Associate of the Month award for "Service to the Poor.”

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

Discover your enthusiasm and meaning in life. Strive to attain them while you still can.

Read More of Hien's Inspiring Story