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Life-prolonging drugs inspired student to pursue pharmacy

Chemotherapy gave beloved cousin extra time

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Written by SOP Communications on February 25, 2019

John Song is a third-year student at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences because chemotherapy gave his beloved cousin, Stephanie Maurer, extra time to live before she died of cancer at 34.

“She was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and was expected to survive three months,” recalls Song. “Because of the chemotherapy she received, she lived for a full year and was able to experience the birth of her niece, hold her, and play with her.”

When his cousin was diagnosed, Song had a degree in business management and was interviewing for jobs. Her life-prolonging treatment inspired him to look at a career in health care and take the pre-requisites for pharmacy school. “Before this, I’d never received a prescription before. After she died, I applied to pharmacy schools,” says Song.

Song and his family had moved to Arizona from South Korea when he was a child. At first, they lived with Maurer and remained nearby when they bought a house. The families were close, sharing holidays, birthday parties, dinners, and other activities.

“When she was diagnosed, I signed up for a 150-mile bike ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for Parkinson’s disease patients in her name and to support her in treatment even though it wasn’t for the same cause,” says Song. He’d never ridden a bike that far before and sent Maurer videos of the ride. “My training videos perked her up and that was worthwhile enough.”

As part of his third-year program at CU Pharmacy, Song worked at Estes Park Health in Estes Park, Colorado as part of his Advanced Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (aIPPE). During his in-patient hospital rotation, Song occasionally delivered chemotherapy infusion bags to the cancer treatment center. “I was able to talk with cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy about my experience and encourage them. It helped them feel like they were not in it alone. They appreciated me sharing my story.”

Song is also a CU Pharmacy student ambassador. “I tell prospective students about why they should come here. I tell them that the school is great because of the faculty and professors,” he says. “The professors care about what you get out of the education and I can sense the passion that they have. They are at the top of their fields, so I know I am getting the best and most current information.”

Song’s career goal is to become an inpatient hospital pharmacist and work with children. “I want to be able to extend children’s lives and cure children so they can have more time and more meaningful moments with their parents.”

Photo: John Song (far left) with his cousin Stephanie Maurer (second from left)

Topics: Alumni, Students