Second-year PharmD student Krystal McCarthy is pursuing a dual MS in Healthcare Decision Analysis. The Redlands, California native shares her career aspirations of working in the pharmaceutical industry, why she wanted to join the Trojan Family, and her “only in L.A.” moment of landing a role playing a pharmacist on a TV show.
What attracted you to the field of pharmacy? Any particular moment(s) that made you stop and think, “This is the path I want to take?”
Coming out of undergrad at UCLA, where I majored in biochemistry, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go into the healthcare field but I was not entirely sure what I was passionate about. Pharmacy didn’t appear on my radar until I visited a friend who was attending pharmacy school at UCSF, and I got to hear about her experiences. After that, I shadowed a pharmacist to see if it was something I actually enjoyed and I ended up working as a clerk and pharmacy tech at his independent pharmacy. I loved getting to know all the patients and learn as much as I could about the medications and what it meant to be a community pharmacist. Working as a tech, I saw firsthand how much our patients relied on my boss for advice on everything including health insurance, over-the-counter medications and even home improvement projects. My experience there definitely inspired and shaped how I want to be perceived as a pharmacist myself — someone who’s highly respected for her knowledge as well as compassion for others.
Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy?
Despite having completed my undergrad at our crosstown rival, UCLA, USC was always one of my top choices for pharmacy school and my number-one choice from the moment I left interview day. I was so impressed with the faculty and students and by how friendly and accomplished everyone I met was. I loved the idea of being a part of the Trojan Family and the prestigious network of USC alumni. I felt no other schools could compare to all of the opportunities already in place here for students and that USC has such an established program that I would be prepared no matter what career path I ended up following in pharmacy.
Why did you decide to pursue an MS in Healthcare Decision Analysis (HCDA) in addition to the PharmD degree?
One of the reasons USC stood out to me initially was the wide range of opportunities for dual or joint degree programs as a way to customize my education and tailor myself to be even more competitive upon graduation. However, I wasn’t sure if pursuing a dual degree was in my budget or if I wanted to commit to additional coursework. Still, I couldn’t shake how interesting the HCDA program sounded. Being a part of the Student Industry Association (SIA), I met many HCDA graduates working in industry who found the program to be extremely helpful in their careers, which reassured me it would be a worthy investment. Now, I’m about halfway done and am convinced I made the right decision. The HCDA program covers multiple fields within industry and managed care I previously knew nothing about. There’s only so much that can fit in our already packed PharmD curriculum, but the HCDA program has been a great supplement to my pharmacy education, helping me dive deeper into understanding the healthcare system and how all of the stakeholders function together. I love that each class brings in professors who actually work in industry and are experts in their respective fields. Plus, all of the program directors and coordinators are amazing and extremely involved with the students. They are always willing to go the extra mile to help us land internships and jobs after graduating and it’s obvious they genuinely care about us.
What’s one of the best/most memorable experiences you’ve had at the School of Pharmacy so far?
The best and most memorable experiences I’ve had while in pharmacy school have come as a result of being involved in the Student Industry Association (SIA). I was lucky enough to be a Level One Representative as a first-year student, which helped me get to know not only upperclassmen but also many alumni and professionals already working in the pharmaceutical industry. I love that many of the alumni who volunteer their time with us were in our shoes just a few years ago and it’s obvious they enjoy coming back and mentoring students. Attending SIA events has been a great way to organically foster relationships I know I’ll maintain for years to come.
What are your career aspirations? In general, how do you feel about the outlook for the pharmacy profession?
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m interested in industry all the way. I now work as a pharmacy intern at a clinical research site in Pasadena where we carry out phase I-III clinical trials for new opioid alternatives for acute pain management. As a result of this experience, I’m definitely drawn toward clinical development, but as I’ve progressed through my HCDA coursework and rotations, I feel health economics outcomes research is an area I could really thrive in. In terms of the outlook for the pharmacy profession, I believe more and more students will be taking the non-traditional route into industry and managed care. There are so many potential opportunities and challenges for which we as pharmacists are perfectly suited and prepared for with our degree. I think it’ll be exciting to see future pharmacists truly push the limit of what our PharmD degrees can be applied to.
What’s a fun fact about you that not many people know about?
Even though I’m (obviously) not a pharmacist yet, I’ve actually played a pharmacist on TV! Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” was filming at the independent pharmacy I used to work at and there was miscommunication with the actor who had been hired to play the part of the pharmacist. They needed a replacement ASAP, and before I knew it, I was getting mic’d up and practicing my three lines with my coworkers. The best part? It was the last day of filming for the season, so I was invited to attend the wrap party with the cast and crew in Hollywood. You can find me in Season 5 – but don’t judge my patient counseling from the clip. I wasn’t allowed to change the lines!