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Autumn Walkerly, pharmacy student

Autumn Walkerly: Finding a Passion for Pharmacy

During Autumn Walkerly’s first two years in the College of Pharmacy, she experienced a special kind of academic programming known as interprofessional education, which meshed the training of pharmacists along with that of the College of Medicine students. The goal? To improve collaboration, practice and the quality of health care.

As a third-year student, Walkerly spent the academic year studying her way through all the body systems: pulmonary, for COPD and asthma; endocrine, for diabetes or gastrointestinal, learning about nutrition and things like Crohn’s disease. “It’s nice to get these little modules and go through each disease state to study what causes it, non-medication remedies to recommend and of course, the medications — when to use them and all of the evidence behind them,” Walkerly says.

From her perspective, the good foundation NEOMED provides in patient education and counseling is nearly as important as knowing which drugs to use and when to use them.

Just as important to Walkerly, now a fourth-year student? Mentors like Sara Dugan, Pharm. D., and Chris Paxos, Pharm. D., both of whom are associate professors of pharmacy practice and of psychiatry. The two serve as advisors for NEOMED’s student chapter of a national organization called the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP). Doctors Dugan and Paxos are “endlessly supportive,” she says.

With student Charlie Dorflinger, Walkerly co-founded the student chapter of CPNP during her second year. The student organization went on to host a consortium of regional organizations that visit nearby communities to educate them on coping with the opioid epidemic.

“It’s really nice to have a mentor, especially someone you can connect with, whether it is based on interest or a genuinely good relationship,” Walkerly adds.

Changing gears

Now on the cusp of graduation, Walkerly didn’t always plan to be a pharmacist. She was going to be a physician, and she was progressing through college on the pre-med track. Then during her junior year, she shadowed a couple of physicians and came to a realization: Medicine wasn’t for her.  A job as a pharmacy technician opened her up to the world of pharmacy, and she decided to apply to pharmacy school, following a year as a lead pharmacy technician at CVS.

“As a technician I couldn’t counsel patients. But figuring something out with their insurance or letting them know about a cheaper medication — that gratification and their appreciation for whatever I did was really rewarding,” says Walkerly.

At NEOMED she has found her career path to pharmacy — and mentors to guide her along the way.