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Commencement spotlight: Emily Graves

NEOMED’s Commencement Ceremony will be Saturday, May 6, at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall. Among the graduating class is Emily Graves, who will earn her Pharm.D. degree and carry the College of Pharmacy flag as gonfolonian.

Remember those skills-assessment tests from middle school and high school where they try match you with a future career based on your responses?

Sometimes they work.

Just ask Emily Graves, top of her class and the gonfolonian for the College of Pharmacy at NEOMED’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

“When I was really young, I wanted to be a teacher because I liked school and I used to play school with my dad all the time,” she recalled. “But then around middle school, I decided I wanted to become a pharmacist. I took this test in middle school that was like, “What career path you should look into.” And pharmacist was in my top three.”

After that she did start looking into the profession and enrolling in more science classes, included chemistry and biology. In high school, she took college-level courses through the College Credit Plus program and participated in the NEOMED Pathways to Pharmacy camp.

“Once I graduated high school, I became a pharmacy technician at CVS,” she said. “I really liked that. It was a good retail experience. I got to see how the pharmacists speak with the patients and I really liked the counseling portion of it.”

And then her mother, a nurse at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, helped her set up a shadowing experience with the hospital pharmacy.

“Once I shadowed at the hospital, I saw that they do a lot of discharge counseling, which I liked even more [than counseling at the community pharmacy], because I feel like you’re able to not be rushed. You can really focus on the patient,” she said.

Among the pharmacists she met at UH Portage was Jaclyn Boyle, Pharm.D., M.S., M.B.A., BCACP, FASHP, now assistant dean, student success in the College of Pharmacy.

“Just seeing her passion for pharmacy really made me excited to become a pharmacist,” Graves said.

The feeling was mutual.

“[Emily] was a volunteer at [UH Portage] when I was an ambulatory care clinical pharmacy specialist several years ago. I remember distinctly that Emily’s work was of an exceptional nature at that point – and clearly her level of dedication and excellence has persisted throughout pharmacy school – to no one’s surprise!” Dr. Boyle said. “I look forward to all that future Dr. Graves will accomplish in her career and certainly feel fortunate to have crossed paths with her within my time at UH and NEOMED.”

Next stop: Columbus

Born and raised — and still living – in Shalersville, Ohio, about 15 miles from NEOMED, Graves will move to Columbus in June to begin a PGY-1 residency at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Eventually, she hopes to work as a hospital pharmacist in solid organ transplant.

“Pharmacists are actually super important for solid organ transplant, because the medications are one of the most important parts about having a transplant,” she said with palpable enthusiasm. “The medications that you take, they lower your immune system so you’re more at risk for infection. So you want to make sure they’re not too immunosuppressed. Right? But you have to make them immunosuppressed enough so that they don’t reject their organ.”

As she prepares for the next stage in her career, she reflected on her time at NEOMED.

Graves was actively involved in several student organizations and held leadership roles in the American Pharmacists Association, the Student Society of Health Systems Pharmacists, and the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy. She is also a member of Rho Chi and Phi Lambda Sigma honor societies. And while she enjoyed organizational activities, what stood out for her were her teachers and mentors.

“I feel like we have really good faculty and most of them are shared faculty, so they’re actually practicing as a pharmacist somewhere,” she noted. “I think that gives [students] a really good insight into what it’s actually like to be a pharmacist.”

Words of wisdom for her P1 self

“Just try your best and try to take advantage of every opportunity that’s available to you,” she said. “There’s so many different opportunities at NEOMED, so just try to focus in on the ones that you want to do the most and that you’ll think you’ll get the best experience with.”

Advice to students considering a career in pharmacy

“Shadow as many people as you can, because there are so many different areas of pharmacy. The more areas you see, the better idea you get of what you want to do.”

Best advice she ever received

“Progress, not perfection.”

“You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Just as long as you’re trying your best and you’re showing up and trying to progress.”