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The Class of 2023 Took the Road Less Traveled, and Sometimes, Paved Their Own

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When the Class of 2023 started at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, it was the fall of 2019. COVID-19 did not even exist. Online learning was not totally mainstream. Eager to get started, the class came to CU Pharmacy ready to pave their own path.

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Lauren Quintana in Ireland during her final rotation.

Lauren Quintana started out paving her own road. She played softball as an undergraduate, and got her prerequisites at a junior college, but she did not need to complete a bachelor’s degree to be accepted into CU.

“I did a lot of research [on pharmacy schools], and I knew I wanted to do pharmacy since high school. So, I knew what I needed to get done while I was in school,” she explained. “I knew I was going to get my bachelor’s while I was here, so I did not need to do the fourth year of undergrad.”

Quintana, from a generational CU Pharmacy family (her grandfather also graduated from the school), has already been hired as a community pharmacist in Northern Colorado. She spent her final rotation at a community-based pharmacy in Ireland.

“It was tied to the hospital, kind of like, out-patient pharmacy, but there were some home visits. It is exciting to learn about international healthcare,” she said.

Quintana knows about community-based healthcare. During the beginning of the COVID pandemic, she was a front-line immunizer at the Denver International Airport.

“There were days where we would give 4,000 shots a day,” she explained. “We had to have on full face shields, it was a lot.”

Dedication to Rural Colorado

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Tricia Brandeburg at Lizard Head Pass in Ames-Rico, CO.

Tricia Brandenburg came to CU Pharmacy to intentionally practice pharmacy in rural locations. She wrapped up her rotations this Spring, having learned from CU preceptors in Alamosa, Cortez, Salida, Eagle County, and Telluride, Colorado, among others. Her dedication to being a front-line provider to rural Coloradans won her the distinction of winning the National Western Stock Show scholarship, which annually recognizes two pharmacy students for their dedication to bringing patient-centered pharmacy care to rural communities across the state.

“I did the early decision to CU Pharmacy,” she said. “I have always liked Colorado, and I fell in love with rural areas. I’m really big into hiking, and fishing, anything outdoors.”

While in Alamosa, Brandenburg spent time at a diabetes clinic and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I found that a lot of patients could really use more information about healthy living on a budget, and help managing their medications. The services were free for them, and they were quick, so I found that patients were likely to take advantage of the healthcare,” she said “It was one of my favorite rotations, it is a way to bring additional services to an area that is in need of more providers.”

Brandenburg said that once patients were not worried about money [to pay for their appointment], they were open to talk and ask questions about their health.

“I really enjoyed doing the diabetes and exercise education,” she said. “I thought it was unique and fun, and it’s a service you don’t really see in rural areas.”

Determination Pays Off

Dorothy Agyemang says if there is no road for you, then you build your own. As a child in Ghana, her uncle got very sick.

“I think he had Malaria,” she recalls. “My uncle was struggling a lot and we did not have access to a doctor because it was too expensive, so we went to the pharmacist, and he prescribed my uncle medication, and he started feeling better. I saw how he helped my uncle and I said, ‘that is what I want to do’.”

Agyemang moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She excelled in math and science and found herself in advanced classes in those areas – and remedial English.

“The school did not know what to do with me,” she said.


Dorothy Agyemang speaks at the Black History Month alumni panel discussion.

In spite, or perhaps because of, the challenges, Agyemang was determined to be successful in her dream. Years later, she was accepted to CU Pharmacy with flying colors, and she brought her determination with her. She is a McNess Scholar, received a Sheldon Steinhouser Scholarship, and earlier this year she participated in a Black History Month panel to share her experience.

“It was an amazing experience, because it gave me the opportunity to speak up and share how you can be an ally, how we can create community, how we can help people coming up,” she said. “I’m an African, I’m Black, I’m a woman, I have an accent... I want to be able to show young Black girls that they can do this too.”

“The purpose for me, on this planet, is to enter spaces where people can also see themselves in,” Agyemang continued. “So that the people after me do not have to struggle.”

Space For Others

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Vinh Thai in his happy place, ice skating. Thai picked up the hobby when online school gave him more free time.

Vinh Thai is creating space for others to follow. Thai moved to the United States as a teenager with his mother from Vietnam. Thai is thoughtful when he speaks, and his cadence draws the listener in.

“I started learning English since 2013,” he said, “so that is another layer to school. But I have never learned medical terms or medications in Vietnam, so learning the new terms in English was the same as if it were in Vietnamese. It is all new.”

He is thankful for the opportunities of pharmacy school.

“I had pharmacy tutoring, pharmacy internship, research projects,” he said. “I was Rho Chi Chapter President at our school from 2021-2022. In leadership experience, I learned to be a good listener, to respect people’s differences, and to make vision a reality. I could also identify areas that I could work on to become a better leader. These opportunities allowed me to discover my passion for leadership.”

The experience prepared him for the next chapter of his career. Upon graduation, he will be completing his PGY I and II residency in Health-System Administration and Leadership at the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

“My goals are to improve patient care with an emphasis on the continuum of care between inpatient and outpatient services, to enhance pharmacist work satisfaction, and to promote diversity in the workplace,” he said.

Thai did not mind, and actually enjoyed, the option to have online classes. It saved time, and it allowed him to explore other areas of interest. After years of admiring ice skaters from afar, he decided to give it a try himself. He signed up for skating lessons, and now he has a coach and is learning a single axle.

“I love it very much,” he smiles. “It is like the closest thing you get to flying.”

Thai says his mom is his number one fan and is cheering for him in everything he does.

CU Pharmacy is cheering for the class of 2023 in everything they do. They are determined, creative, hardworking, and they will change the world.

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