Megan Williams was about to begin pharmacy school when her 5-year-old nephew was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor that starts in the lower back part of the brain.
Williams, a member of the Class of 2020, already knew she wanted to become a pharmacist, but watching a team of professionals care for her nephew was inspiring.
“I saw him go through radiation and chemo and there was a lot of support from people at the pediatric hospital in Omaha, where he was being treated,” she said. “And I want to be able to give that back to other patients.”
Nearly five years later, Williams’ nephew, now 10, is in remission and healthy. Now that she has graduated from CU Pharmacy, Williams is on her way to giving patients the same type of care other health professionals gave to her nephew. She matched to a post graduate year one (PGY-1) residency at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Throughout pharmacy school, Williams’ passion for pediatric pharmacy has resulted in several opportunities.
At the end of her third year, Williams was one of two students in the U.S. to be awarded the John Dice Memorial Student Scholarship by the Pediatric Pharmacy Association (PPAG). To qualify for the scholarship, Williams had to demonstrate a proven interest in pediatric pharmacy and show that she has a record of being involved in programs and volunteer efforts that focus on the well-being of children. Williams was the fourth consecutive CU Pharmacy student to be awarded the scholarship.
She also served as president of the organization CU-PediatRx, a student chapter of the PPAG dedicated to improving medication therapy in children through promotion of safe and effective medication use.
Williams’ commitment to pediatric pharmacy started early, with an internship at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Just before she began at CU Pharmacy, when she still lived in her home state of Nebraska, she drove to Colorado for an interview at the hospital.
“If I could pick a dream job for an internship, it would be this,” she said. “And I was the only one who, No. 1, wasn’t in pharmacy school and didn’t live here. So I was terrified.”
It all worked out, though: “I ended up getting the job, and they worked with me when I was moving here,” Williams said.
Her connection to Children’s Hospital lasted through pharmacy school. In her P4 year, she had elective advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE) rotations at the hospital, including one in general medicine and surgery and another in outpatient hematology/oncology. She also had an inpatient APPE at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.
Like the rest of her classmates, Williams felt the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as she was finishing her final semester.
“I was on my elective outpatient hematology/oncology rotation at Children's when the precautions began, including the shelter-in-place orders,” she said. “Thankfully, I was able to continue that rotation remotely and focused on patient chart review, topic discussions, and projects like a journal club presentation that could all be completed at home. I would check-in with my precepting pharmacist daily over the phone. I was still able to learn so much remotely, but did miss out on some great aspects of being in the clinic like patient and family counseling and daily interprofessional interaction.”
Still, the situation taught her larger lessons about being a healthcare provider.
“As a future healthcare provider, I think it just makes it clear that things can change in a moment and it's important to be adaptable to what will be best for your patients, your healthcare facility, and the community,” Williams said.
She saw firsthand how the hospital adapted.
“Thankfully, COVID-19 has not made a large direct impact in the pediatric population, but it has made big changes that are helpful to the community,” she said. “I know at Children's Hospital Colorado, they have taken on labor and delivery so that there are more beds available in adult hospitals. Many of the pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are working remotely to promote social distancing as possible. The facility is cancelling elective procedures to limit the amount of beds that are used during this time. Knowing what each person can do to help and following through on it, no matter how small it seems, really can make a difference.”
The pandemic might also impact Williams personally.
For Williams, pediatric pharmacy has also led to friendships so strong that two other members of the CU-PediatRx, CU Pharmacy classmates Laura Mullen and Jocelyn Amico, will be in her wedding — as long as large gatherings are allowed to take place.
As she moves forward with her goal of becoming a pediatric pharmacist, Williams said she wanted to thank CU Pharmacy faculty member Dr. Allison Blackmer and Dr. Jennifer Hamner, the manager of professional development and the residency program director at Children’s Hospital Colorado, for their guidance in her career so far.
From her family’s perspective, pediatric pharmacy will make a big difference for other children.
“Everyone in our family was impacted by my nephew’s illness, so they think it’s really great I’ll be able to help out other children in similar situations or other chronic disease states,” she said.