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A grid of four featured pharmacy graduates.

The Class of 2024 Showed Up. Now, They Are Ready to Create Change

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When are you reading this? Maybe it’s Wednesday, just after lunch. Maybe it is Saturday morning, and you have some free time. Wherever you are, or whenever it is, at this very moment, the CU Pharmacy class of 2024 is creating change. They started at CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy in the fall of 2020, the same year the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. It would have been easy to change their mind, to stay in their comfort zone, and to just not. Instead, they showed up because the class of 2024 believes in something bigger than themselves.

From Chemistry Lab to Pharmacy School

Uyen Dinh smiles while visiting a Botanical Garden

 

Uyen Dinh visits a botanical garden while in Texas doing her elective APPE rotation in nuclear pharmacy.

Uyen Dinh showed up because as an undergraduate chemistry major at CalPoly, she would sit with her best friend in the lab and dream about pharmacy school in Colorado. Originally from Vietnam, Dinh moved to the United States when she was 17 and carried a pocket English translation dictionary with her to graduate high school.

“I could do science, I could do math,” she explained, “and I needed help learning English.”

As a first-generation student, Dinh’s family was supportive but also did not have the same lived experience to offer academic help. So, Dinh did what came naturally to her: research. She began exploring everything she could find about healthcare careers, schools, and further education. Before she made a commitment to move to Denver and attend pharmacy school, she needed to make sure it was the right path for her.

“I took a gap year,” she said, “and I worked in a pharmacy and that is when I decided that, yes, this is what I want to do.”

Through her independent drive for education, she discovered a passion for nuclear pharmacy and chose three of her elective rotations to be in oncology.

“I shadowed a nuclear pharmacist, and I took a didactic course for a nuclear medicine certificate so that I could learn the foundations, the chemistry, and the mathematics behind nuclear medicine,” she said. “There is a lot of compounding, every day is a new day.”

Dinh loves the thrill of a new day so much that she applied for, and was hired, as a nuclear pharmacist with Cardinal Health. She starts this spring. Oh, and that best friend from CalPoly, who used to dream of pharmacy school with Dinh in the chemistry lab? She is fellow 2024 CU Pharmacy graduate Yuna Jung. Together the two of them have proven that determination, and a good friend, can accomplish almost anything.

Juggling Family and Patient Education

Michael Brace’s good friend who stuck with him through pharmacy school is his wife. Brace is thoughtful, full of dad jokes, and juggled his family, pharmacy school, and work to graduate. Originally from Durango, Colorado, Brace’s return to school caused his family to move not once, but twice, to reach CU Pharmacy.

Michael Brace with his best support system, his family, in Carlsbad, Colorado.

 

Michael Brace with his best support system, his family, in Carlsbad, Colorado.

“I was a medical assistant and a lab tech for fifteen years and discovered that I liked to help patients understand more about their medication,” he said. “Some of my patients didn’t know why they were taking medicine.”

Brace saw many patients with diabetes and high blood pressure, and he enjoyed helping them manage their medications. The medical doctors in his office encouraged him to do more with his skill set. Brace, with the support of his wife and son, started an undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, with every intention to become an MD.

“Somewhere along the way, a pharmacist said to me that I needed to think about pharmacy,” he said.

He was accepted into CU Pharmacy’s program and moved his family to the Denver Metro area to attend school. Soon, his family welcomed a second child and Brace’s juggling got a little more complicated. Yet, he never lost sight of the goal. One of his favorite rotations was working in ambulatory care, helping patients during the pandemic understand their diabetes medication, and during drug shortages, learning to compound so that his patients could manage their disease.

What excited Brace the most about pharmacy school? Being done. His determination set an example for his children to follow, but he is ready to spend more time with them.

“I can’t wait to just be able to do karate with my son,” he said. “It’s been school for a long time, and my family is my priority. I’m ready for more outside time, more camping, more of that.”

The Perfect Match

Madeline Quigley summits during a trail run.

 

Madeline Quigley summits during a trail run.

Madeline Quigley is also ready to spend time outdoors, but the former division one cross country star was able to do some of that during school.

“One of the first weeks here,” she said, “I was talked into running the Boulder Skyline Traverse.”

The traverse, an 18-mile + trail (depending on which way you go), connects five peaks and about 6,000 feet vertical gain, is no small feat. Pun intended. But then again, neither is pharmacy school.

“I’m originally from Massachusetts, and I went to undergrad at the University of New Hampshire,” she said. “When I toured [CU Anschutz], I immediately fell in love with it. The professors are at the top of their field, the campus is amazing, and access to the best health systems in Colorado right on campus is what really sold me.”

Quigley’s undergraduate degree is in nutrition, which has been a benefit in pharmacy school.

“Depending on the patient's disease state, I can help counsel about their medications and also offer insight into how their diet may impact their condition” she said.

In addition to school, rotations, tests, and running, Quigley completed an inpatient internship in ambulatory care at Poudre Valley Hospital. A sixty-mile drive from campus, she spent two weekends a month at the hospital.

“Ten out of ten, would do it again,” she said. “The internship allowed me to mimic what I would do as a pharmacist about as closely as possible while still under an intern license. They had a lot of trust in me and because of that I learned more than I ever imagined.”

This summer, she is headed for a PGY1 residency in ambulatory care at the University of North Carolina, her top choice.

"I feel like if there was any residency out there tailored to me, it is this one,” she said.

Believe That You Can

Nick Perez also feels like his residency was tailored to his interests.

“I’m doing an Acute Care PGY1 at UC Health Memorial in Colorado Springs,” he said. “I’m excited, from other experiences with UC Health, the level of education is outstanding.”

Nick Perez works with Dr. Leah Fitzgerald at the Denver Indian Health and Family Services Clinic during a rotation.

 

Nick Perez works with Dr. Leah Fitzgerald at the Denver Indian Health and Family Services Clinic during a rotation.

Perez has enjoyed all of his education, and spent his final rotation at Denver Indian Health and Family Services, Denver's only Urban Indian Health Program providing culturally appropriate care for American Indian and Alaskan Native adults, children, and families.

"I do it all here," he said. "Patient care, paperwork, billing. I have learned a lot."

Perez grew up on an alpaca farm in Maryland, obtained his undergraduate degree from Florida State, and applied to CU Pharmacy because if it’s top-tier ranking – and he really wanted something different.

“My sister understood, she got that I wanted to move away and do something new,” he laughed. “My mom, on the other hand… I think she would have liked to have me closer.”

Perez laughs a lot. He uses humor to connect with his patients, has dabbled in standup comedy, and his energy naturally attracts a following. As a P1 he was class secretary and decided to run for class president when other students assumed he would.

“I was able to run for class president because others saw an energy in me, and it gave me confidence,” he said. “I realized that potential is in everyone. If you believe in that, and feed it, in anyone, you can accomplish a lot. I see that in my classmates. They all have potential and if you nourish that, everyone can accomplish a lot.”

He has one message for incoming students.

“Believe in yourself, harder,” he said. “You are part of something bigger, and if you believe in that, and you believe in yourself, you can make an impact.”

 

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