At the age of eight, Megan Foreman, Pharm.D. (’16), was diagnosed with anxiety. But what she remembers most clearly is the kindness her counselor showed her over the years.
“I will always remember how good and understood my counselor made me feel, and that drove me to want to be able to help people in the same way,” says Dr. Foreman.
It was an experience during her sophomore year of high school that she first considered a career in pharmacy. While attending The Road Not Taken, an annual one-day STEM conference for high school females held at Kent State Trumbull. Dr. Foreman was introduced to a pharmacist from Giant Eagle.
She was inspired.
Once enrolled as a College of Pharmacy student at Northeast Ohio Medical University, Dr. Foreman discovered that psychiatric pharmacy was a way to fuse her interest in mental health with her goal to become a pharmacist.
Practicing at the top of her license
Now, as a practicing pharmacist, Dr. Foreman has the opportunity to achieve that goal each and every day as a mental health clinical pharmacy specialist at the Youngstown VA Outpatient Clinic — a system which she says provides her a gratifying amount of autonomy.
“Once patients have their initial visit with a psychologist, I prescribe and manage their medications. I get to see my patients and form a therapeutic relationship. For me, being able to enact that change is very freeing. To be able to use all the information I learned in pharmacy school to practice at the top of my license is wonderful,” she says.
When patients come to see Dr. Foreman, they’re welcomed into her office, where colorfully designed motivational messages line her cabinets.
She sees patients Monday through Friday in 30-minute to hour-long increments. During that time, Dr. Foreman walks through patients’ mental health conditions and whatever else is going on in their lives, then reviews possible medication therapies.
Rather than assigning her patients a medication, then moving on, Dr. Foreman takes a non-traditional approach.
“I offer my patients what medications I think would be beneficial for them to take, then I allow the patient to make the decision,” she says.
Words of advice for future pharmacists
Dr. Foreman hopes other College of Pharmacy students will have the opportunity to make a career out of their passion, as she has. For those interested in mental health pharmacy, Dr. Foreman offers some nuggets of advice:
- Get as much experience as you can. Ask to shadow at different locations. Mental health pharmacy is not a cut and dried specialty. There are outpatient opportunities, such as working in a retail, inpatient opportunities where you round with an acute psych team, and more.
- Find out which part of mental health you’re passionate about and then pursue it. We are a very much a growing field, especially now there’s been a reduction in stigma. People are more open to talk about depression and anxiety then they ever have been before. As people become more comfortable talking about and seeking care for their mental health, we’re going to need more providers.
Dr. Foreman readily acknowledges how beneficial her NEOMED education was — including the Wasson Center for Clinical Skills Training, Assessment, and Scholarship exercises, which she remembers dreading at the time.
“NEOMED definitely made me into the pharmacist I am now. During residency, comparing myself to residents from other pharmacy schools, I definitely think we make a lot of strong clinicians. I tell students now all the time, I know some of these Standardized Patient activities seem tedious, but I felt so well prepared when I got out into the real world. I wouldn’t trade my education for anything,” says Dr. Foreman.
While Standardized Patient activities seemed like just another task in pharmacy school, Dr. Foreman now appreciates those interview checklists – and continues to use them in her patient interviews.
“NEOMED prepared me super well for the job that I do now,” she says. “I would not have been able to make it through residency without the skills that I learned while I was in school.”