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For Two Graduates, Balancing School and the Military Became Second Nature

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Life in pharmacy school is not easy. As students progress through their doctoral program, studies, rotations, and exams take precedent. For two graduating CU Pharmacy students, the drill is all too familiar – and they added military service to their workload.

Sarah Jallen
2021 PharmD graduates Sarah Jallen and Jacob King.

Sarah Jallen and Jacob King are both in the United States Navy.

Lieutenant Jallen is in the Navy Reserves as a Healthcare Administrator in the Medical Services Corps. Upon graduation, Jallen will begin her residency program with a combined PGY1 Pharmacy & PGY2 Health System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, and continue to serve in the Navy Reserves.

King’s service is different. As a U.S Navy Officer Candidate 1 (Health Services Collegiate Program), he did not serve in a traditional sense during his time at CU but will immediately join the Navy upon graduation in a full-time capacity. His first order of business is to complete officer training school and to begin his residency at the Navy Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia.

“I come from a long line of military service in my family,” King said. “I knew I wanted to serve in some way, and being able to combine my interests in pharmacy and the Navy was too good to pass up.”

King explained that he never wants to show up to work simply to collect a paycheck.“You spend so much of your life at your job, it needs to be something you’re passionate about, and I feel really fortunate that I am going to be able to do that,” he said.

Jallen feels the same way, though her introduction to the military was unique.

“My sister is a two-time bronze medalist in the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014, and many of her teammates were veterans,” she said. “They made an impact on my life, and after that I knew I wanted to join the military.”

Her goal had a long-term plan. In order to make herself more marketable for both pharmacy school and the Navy, Jallen got a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration, which was how she was accepted into her Naval position. In her current job, she develops enlisted sailors to ensure readiness and support military operations, analyzes total force power, and maintains the status of over 500 medical professional sailors belonging to different detachments in the Navy Medicine West Region under Navy Medicine Readiness & Training Command (NMRTC) Camp Pendleton – all while completing her PharmD.

“It has been a balancing act,” she said. “I’ve had both my reserve officer training and finals in the same week. I’ve gotten really good at sleeping in airports, doing work on planes, and managing my time.”

King’s time at CU counts toward his military service, but he did not have active duty or reserve training while in school. He has had an internship with King Soopers pharmacy, and very much enjoys the role community pharmacists play in healthcare.

“This past year has given me so much experience with patients, and I love the interaction and being able to help someone by explaining what medications they are taking, how the prescriptions metabolize, how it all works together,” he said. “I think with COVID-19, people are taking more of an active role in their health, and they want to know more about their medications.”

After officer training, King will oversee a team of healthcare professionals for the Navy, and he hopes patient education will play a major role.

Both are looking forward to their future and say they would not change their decision to balance both military and a doctoral degree.

“The Navy has provided me with incredible opportunities and connections,” Jallen said. “I can call my Commanding Officers for support at any time. I built a relationship with a CU Skaggs alumni in the reserves. My command has been exceedingly supportive throughout this entire process and even helped write letters of recommendation for my residency applications.”

King agrees.

“Already, the relationships I’ve built have been life changing,” he said. “Through this program, I was able to connect with another CU Pharmacy alum, and he was able to guide me through some parts of this process and support both my education and military career.”

To future students, both say to follow your passion. As King said, don’t show up to work to collect a paycheck; make sure you love what you do.

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Topics: Students, Pharmacy