UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences News

Creating your own path

Kevin Omerza, PharmD/MSPS ‘15, discusses the decision to pursue a dual degree and how this decision has opened many new paths for him. Dr. Omerza is currently completing a PGY1 residency at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The Past and the Future. These are two important factors in every decision we make. The past holds knowledge and experiences that help to inform your decision. The future includes your goals, how you feel the decision will impact these goals, and how you believe the profession will evolve. Both the past and the future played a large role in my decision to pursue a dual-degree program in Pharmacy and Health Outcomes Research along with the PharmD degree.

My past included experiences and connections that provided the dual-degree opportunity. As a P1 pharmacy student and P2 BSPS Administration student, I took my first foray into the world of research. I worked with Dr. Sharrel Pinto on a literature review as a thesis to complete the requirements of an Honors Degree. In addition to my honors thesis, I was given the opportunity to join the Pharmaceutical Care and Outcomes Research group (PCOR) with Dr. Pinto. Through the PCOR, I was exposed to many areas of pharmacy policy, practice, and research. I was able to assist in reporting to the State Board of Pharmacy on the status of new pharmacy technology as well as assist in the design, implementation, analysis and reporting of a focus group study. These experiences also included interactions and networking with pharmacists, patients and fellow researchers.

As I became more involved in research, and my P2 pharmacy year began to draw to a close, I was approached by Dr. Sharrel Pinto about the potential for helping to establish a dual-degree program. In addition to my knowledge and experiences, I considered where I saw myself and the profession of pharmacy in the coming years. I knew that my goal would be to impact patient care through inpatient clinical practice. I knew that I would need to effectively utilize research in my practice, as well as potentially complete my own research. I could think of no better way to develop these skills than focused coursework and hands-on experience. I also took into account of the perspective of the profession. It is no secret that competition for pharmacy positions is growing, especially among residency programs. The dual-degree program, and associated experiences, would help to diversify my skills and help me to stand out from the applicant pool.

My effort in the dual-degree program was definitely rewarded. I gained valuable experience through helping to develop a multi-site, double-blind research study. I also helped to revive a student organization focused on research. All of these experiences helped to diversify my knowledge and skill set. Through networking and conferences, I was solicited to apply for careers in research as well as PhD programs at various schools. This also speaks volumes to the rigor and prestige of the master’s in Health Outcomes program we have here at UT. While I did not intend at the time to pursue these career paths, I know first-hand the importance of having multiple options, as you never know what the future will hold.

When applying for a residency, I was able to stand out from the crowd and be a competitive candidate. I earned a residency position in the geographic area I wanted, and at a hospital that is very strong in the specialties in which I am interested.

Overall, I have had a fantastic experience both during, and as a result of, the dual-degree program. I was able to participate in multiple research conferences and have built relationships that will last throughout my career and beyond.

The white papers to the state board, the focus group, and the research study have provided cutting-edge practice-based experiences. These unique experiences have given me exposure to a world of pharmacy that a typical hospital or community pharmacy experience does not provide. In the current climate of health care reform, and the focus on outcome-driven care, such exposure is important to truly understand the current roles and future of our profession.

I hope that all pharmacy students take a moment to think about their education and career goals and what will help them to attain these goals. They can then seek out and take advantage of the many opportunities which exist within our college. Regardless of your practice interests, there are organizations and motivated faculty members to help you achieve your goals. I was lucky enough to find an opportunity that fit in with my practice goals.

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is the Scientific Editor and College Communicator for The University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is a triple alumna of The University of Toledo with master's degrees in English and Education and a graduate certificate in Patient Advocacy.
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