Panther Profiles are Q&A interviews that highlight Panthers of all stripes -- students, faculty, staff, alum, board members and anyone else in the campus community.
Jason Fine, who is graduating with a doctorate in pharmacy, is part of the final class at ACPHS’ Vermont campus. He has served in a number of leadership roles at ACPHS, including in Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society as the Vermont Liaison to the Albany campus, the president of the ACPHS Student Government Association-Vermont and vice president of the Vermont Pharmacists Associate Student Chapter. Jason is also active with the University of Vermont Medical Center Foundation, serving on the grant review committee.
He talked to us about seeking work-life balance while taking a break on the ski slopes near Reno, Nevada, where he was completing his final pharmacy rotation at the Renown Regional Medical Center Institute for Heart and Vascular Health (pictured).
Tell us how you came to enroll at the Vermont campus of ACPHS.
Jason Fine: I grew up in Maine. I went to the University of Vermont for my undergraduate degree. I studied neuroscience, and I always knew that I wanted to go into the health care field.
I focused on a pre-med track which prepared me for either going to medical school or continuing on to seek a physician assistant position. Before my sophomore year in 2011, I became a pharmacy technician at a grocery store. I later worked at the pharmacy at the University of Vermont Medical Center, beginning in June 2013. I worked with ACPHS pharmacy students from both the New York and the Vermont campus who were completing their IPPEs [introductory pharmacy practice experiences] or APPEs [advanced pharmacy practice experiences] or working as interns there. I was able to get the inside scoop about what it was like to be a pharmacy student.
I wasn't sure exactly the best route in medicine for me. After graduating, it was clear that becoming a medical doctor was going to take some time.
I worked full time after graduating in the UVMC specialty pharmacy while studying for the MCAT. I really began to see how important the pharmacist’s role is in patient care. Nowadays, so much of what we do in medicine is focused around drug therapy. So the specialty pharmacy was really that fork in the road for me where I decided that the pharmacy was where I really wanted to head.
What about the MCAT? Did you take it?
I did take the test. It's a tough exam. But it was not just the exam that dissuaded me. I saw how much the quality of life, in my opinion, is better for a pharmacist.
What specifically did you see in pharmacists’ quality of life that you thought would be better?
I was privileged to work in a pharmacy that was well stocked with pharmacists and adequate time was available to counsel patients. And I also like that that pharmacists do not have to take as much work home with them as their counterparts in other medical settings. So I was like, wow, this is really great. You're working in a healthcare field. You're able to really make a difference in patients’ lives. And you're not necessarily having to take home all of this other work to chart.
And you're able to then use your time outside of work to improve the profession, to advocate for the profession. And also just to balance your time at the pharmacy with time at home.
And with skiing perhaps?
Yeah. And that was definitely a part of my time in Vermont too.
I was really invested in the Vermont campus. And I had my job with the UVM Medical Center. Before I entered ACPHS, I had been working with the same patients in the pharmacy and as a case manager with the medical center’s Health Assistance Program for over five years. The Vermont campus allowed me to continue to work as a member of the UVM Medical Center community.
The accelerated program that I entered at the Vermont campus was a three-year program – very, very intense. I never had any true doubt about doing it, but it was a lot of work. And through my experiences with APPE, I’m so glad that I have the ability to have diverse experiences, not just in Vermont or in New York but across the country.
We often say that ACPHS gives you the best of both worlds – a close-knit campus with far-reaching opportunities.
It certainly is not false advertising. I was able to travel to Arizona and to complete my ambulatory care rotation in Reno, Nevada, and it’s been really wonderful to see how health care is delivered in other states.
In Nevada, pharmacists are able to work under a collaborative practice agreement with a physician. So when we see patients, they're scheduled with the pharmacist and we are able to have that visit independently.
A pharmacist is focused on one particular issue or one particular disease state rather than trying to address multiple different disease states in one visit. They're able to really dive into it and and gather patient history and really tailor treatment plans to patients as best they can. So this experience has totally solidified that, yes, pharmacy is the right experience for me.
What is in the cards for you next year?
I'm so excited that I'm going to be starting a PGY1 residency with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, St. Margaret Hospital. When you enter into the program, you commit at that time for your second year.
Through my first year, I'll be able to explore during my rotations where I want to specialize within that ambulatory care specialty. And then in the second year, I’ll be able to work in one of three different practice settings.
One thing that really drew me to this particular residency program is that they have a focus on being an educator, and I think they are always educating their patients. An important part of our job is to educate the next generation of pharmacists through preceptorships.
This residency program has a faculty development fellowship where you spend time with the University of Pittsburgh College of Pharmacy, learning from other pharmacist faculty members there, and teaching pharmacy students. I've really been inspired by the faculty at ACPHS. I never really saw teaching as the primary end goal, but I've seen just how faculty members are able to be tremendous educators in the classroom setting and have successful practices outside of the classroom setting.
Once again, it comes back to that work/life balance.
So I'm really blessed that I'm able to complete this fellowship. I hope it's going to lead to a position where I can have patient care and teaching opportunities.