Rachel Lowe, PY3
When I boarded my flight from Memphis, Tennessee to Baltimore, Maryland at the end of May, I could not have been more nervous. I had never spent a summer so far away from my home or from the South, and the personal pressure I felt to excel in my internship was immense. I spent my first weekend unpacking, exploring the Johns Hopkins University campus, and practicing my bus route so I would not be late for my first day. (By practicing my bus route I mean sitting at the wrong street corner for an hour before realizing the bus stop was a block away.)
Being in a big city was overwhelming at first, but once I learned the best transportation routes and what parts of town had the best attractions, I really enjoyed it. Baltimore has numerous areas that cater to tourists and offers some of the best crab cakes in the U.S. I particularly enjoyed the inner harbor, with the beautiful view of the water and lots of food options, and federal hill provides a breathtaking view of the city skyline!
Aside from exploring ‘charm city’, the titan that is encompassed by Johns Hopkins Medicine provided as many opportunities for learning and exploration as I could possibly tackle in two short months. During the interview process we were asked to rank our top three departments. I chose and was accepted into the Investigational Drug Services (IDS) Department at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. IDS coordinates and dispenses all of the medications being used in clinical trials within the Johns Hopkins Hospital for both inpatients and outpatients. Inventory management is a major component of IDS; the pharmacists are responsible for ensuring the location of every single pill from the beginning to the end of each trial. Another major component was digesting drug company protocols to create one or two page ‘write-ups’ that allow other pharmacists to understand the purpose of each study and dispense drugs to patients. Because every trial is regulated by the FDA, dispensing a single prescription for a clinical trial may take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, whereas a normal retail pharmacy prescription should take about 5 to 15 minutes. Medications may require special packaging, labeling, or inventory records to make sure all of the trial sponsor’s and FDA’s regulations are met. Learning the reasoning behind these processes has allowed me to evaluate primary literature more effectively and to find possible sources of error or limitations much more easily. This skill has been extremely valuable during my third year of pharmacy school in Jackson, Mississippi.
Outside of IDS, I participated in the Pharmacy Ambassador program with Kelsey Stephens and three other interns. We visited patient rooms once a week to ask if they had any questions about their medications and to provide an assistance hotline number if any questions arose after we left. I loved the opportunity to interact with patients in the hospital and to educate patients about their medications. The interns also toured Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Home Care Group and spent a day traveling to Bethesda, Maryland to tour ASHP headquarters! Finally, we were provided with the opportunity to interact with pharmacist from almost every specialty area in the hospital. The pharmacists would describe their position and their training and interns were allowed to ask questions. I found these ‘pharmacist discussions’ invaluable as I am currently deciding what direction I will choose to take with my career as a pharmacist.
I cannot describe how grateful I am to have had such a wonderful summer experience. I feel that I have grown as a student, and I have been exposed to the countless career paths that are possible for a pharmacist! Both the hospital and the city were wonderful, and I cannot wait to get back to Baltimore for an Orioles baseball game and another delicious crab cake!