Monday, August 29, 2011

Medical Missions

I once asked a pharmacist that goes on medical missions if there was a job for her when she goes.  She said,

                     "Yeah, the most important job..... handling the meds." 

Now, I am so confused by that.  Countries that need medical missions don't have boards of pharmacy, and  they don't care which team member handles the meds, they just appreciate receiving the help. The one mission trip that I had the pleasure of being a part of had a medical branch and a church branch doing Bible School and giving supplies.  I don't remember a pharmacist on the medical branch (I was in school and was with the church), and I know they handed out meds. 

What I was asking her was, do they use her medical knowledge, or at least her drug knowledge.  I'm sure they would refer to her to see which Sulfonylurea was in stock or which ACE-inhibitor they had, but I wanted to know if we could be of use - medically (as I know God can use anyone for any purpose).  With Hurricane Irene hitting the Northeast, and Tropical Storm Jose brewing, I would like to think that pharmacists can do something other than supply system management, not that I think we are better than Doctors, but I think we are a valuable asset.  Our training and the overall desire of pharmacists to make a difference drive me to ask these questions. 

Can our profession develop into a pharmacist practitioner of sorts?  I know that some states allow pharmacists to prescribe certain medications, and most states allow collaborations between doctors an pharmacists to have standing orders (e.g. flu shots), but how far can we go?  I am trying to pose these questions in a positive light rather than in a whiny "woe is me" tone.  I have to admit that when I started pharmacy school, I just wanted to help my family and those close to me with the fruits that this profession bears.  Not that I didn't think of the little white haired ladies or the weather talking old men that we interact with so often, but my family was my primary concern.  Now I feel like I have a calling to do more.

Should I go to Seminary?  Should I go to medical school?  Should I stay where I am and see what kind of positive things God can do with a profession that has already given me such grief?  I'm not sure yet, but I will be praying and taking steps find out.


  1. I stumbled upon your post trying to look for a medical mission trip to go on. I, too, am a young pharmacist and I ask myself those same types of questions like what ELSE can I be doing within my profession to help people and most importantly glorify God. I'm curious are you working retail or hospital? residency? maybe I should check your other posts lol.

    1. I am working in hospital now, after 5 months of retail. It is better, but still seems mundane. I don't really know what I'm going to do, but I know this job isn't something I could work at for 40 years, those that do have one of three things 1. A different outlook, 2. Fooled themselves, 3. Given up.

    2. Thank you so much for this post. It spoke to me on so many different levels. Your candor is greatly appreciated. Where are you with your decision? Do you think going to Seminary will help with your personal mission? Do you think by becoming an md you'll be able to serve on the mission field more effectively? You feedback is greatly appreciated! Many blessings to you!

    3. I am in the process of figuring this out. I have started looking at different programs and different entrance exams (MCAT, GMAT, GRE, etc...). I have thought a lot about med school, but 4 years of school and 4 years of residency puts me at 35 until I can work independently and really start paying off the debt that comes with the education. It's a big commitment of time and money, especially time.
      My biggest thing is waiting for God's calling. As it stands, I think a lot about the money. I think I get too excited about it and status. Something that I think God has been working on in my life. However, I want to go where I'm called, and I just don't know where that is or even what it is in, right now. I have so many interests, and I love to be outside ( instead of locked up for 8 hours), so I am torn, but I hope that I am ready to answer the call when it comes. Thanks for reading.

  2. Your blog post reflects my thoughts exactly. I am a senior in high school about to graduate. I am unable to decide whether to become a pharmacist (it is most convenient and following parents' wishes) or something else that will be of more use on future mission trips I plan to go on. I am also considering the religious life as well, although I am not sure if I am wanting to pursue it for the right reasons. I am very squeemish around blood and surgery and such, so I don't think I could be a doctor or a nurse. Pharmacy seems like the safest option as of now. Since you have already become a pharmacist, do you recommend I pursue this career path? Thanks :)

    1. There are so many things to think about when you consider a career.

      First, what are you passionate about, or if that is too deep right now, what do you enjoy?

      There are a handful of things that I like about pharmacy: 1. Helping people 2. Knowing about treatments and medications (understanding the what's, why's, and various options) 3. The potential to work part tim and make what is considered an average salary.

      Other than that, the work conditions suck, the hours usually suck, and it is so busy that you have to neglect work to step out and help someone who has a question (while the work piles up).

      The first thing anyone should do is pray and ask for guidance, give it to God and he will show you the way. He has given you so many abilities and talents that you can serve him with, that you can bless Him and others in any field.

      However, I have learned that timing is important. If you did a 4 year bachelor's degree, 4 years in med school, and 4 years residency straight out of high school, thy outs you at about 30 then if you specialized even further for two to four years, you are at 36 and doing something you are interested in, with so many opportunities for other ventures as a doctor.

      However, go to pharmacy school after a 2year associates program, you are 24 with a doctorate making 6 figures without having to touch pus, mucus, or urine (just the occasional vomiting in the store). Not bad if you like it.

      If not, you are 24 considering Med school, with at least 12 years ahead of you until you are an independent physician. Then you will be anywhere from a quarter to a third of a million dollars in school debt pushing middle age.

      So really consider where your interests are. I grew up very poor and thought that I could do anything for the right price, but I can't. So now I'm looking at my options at 27, Thats a lot easier when your 18 and no spouse, children or debt.

      Good luck, God Bless, and let me know if you have more questions.


      I would only recommend pharmacy I you have worked in it (cashier or technician, etc...), enjoyed it, and could picture yourself doing it until you decide to retire.

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  4. Pharmacy is changing every year. I am an old timer and went back to get my PharmD. I needed this degree for hospital pharmacy. Our hospital is now a clinical pharmacist only hospital. We have CPOE, that is Computer Physician Order Entry. Pharmacists do not enter meds in the system anymore. We verify all medications and no med is given until a pharmD approves it. Our verification is beyond drug to drug , drug to allergy. The verification is also disease state to drug and now we are introducing genomics. Now that MDs have to enter their own orders, they are humbled by the extent of different drug formulations. Physicians have also realized that when a patient turns to the worse, it is almost always drug related. We get consult orders to rule out down turns caused by drugs. I tell, you, since CPOE came in, my job has become more fulfilled. We went from data entry pharmacists to clinical analysts.

  5. Yes its true that pharmacy is used everywhere..Great post thanks and keep sharing..

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  6. I stumbled across this post on my lunch break. You pose a very interesting question, "what does the pharmacist do in the mission field." I am a pharmacist with short-term experience in multiple countries (to name a few... Kenya, Congo, Sudan, Haiti, Lebanon, Peru, Afghanistan), I also teach a class at Campbell University's Pharmacy School called "Christian Pharmacy Missions." It is a short one hour elective offered in the third year, we focus on the role of pharmacists in the mission field, how to prepare for a trip, what to expect while there, how to share your faith with someone from a different culture, and we offer an international-clinical-missions rotation to those interested in their fourth year. One of the things we discuss is how pharmacist are trained to share their knowledge more than a tangible hands-on profession. This contrasts to physicians, nurses, and dentists who add a more physical aspect to their field as well as their knowledge. I know there is a new direction for pharmacy in the area of CPP and physical assessment, however this is not traditionally what we are know for. So the question remains, what do we "do" in the mission field. Obviously, God has a plan for each of us and can find a place for us to serve and use our unique talents, but to be a little more specific to your question I would encourage you to know that pharmacists are slowly being recognized as a valuable member of the missions team. To name a few of the opportunities to serve.... establish formularies, set up supply chains for the clinics, dispense medication (obviously), teach (I cannot express to you how much the opportunity to teach to the local health providers has presented itself), negotiate healthcare supplies and availability with other NGOs, establish long-term workflow in the pharmacy for when we are gone, create a system of accountability in order to prevent waste and abuse in the clinic operations (this is crucial in developing countries - medication represents the life of a missions clinic - in these countries medicine is the only tangible way of maintaining a long-term clinic, most local health care providers in these countries don't receive payment for their services and rely on the medication to keep their family fed). This is just a few of the ways in which we can be helpful. I hope and pray you never give up on this calling from God to use your skills to care for His creation. If you have any other questions you can reach me by contacting Campbell University, I am happy to help.

    1. I would love to learn more about your mission trips! I have been out of school for 2 years now and have been to a medical trip in Guatemala with a team from Tufts University. I absolutely loved being the pharmacist on the team. I dispensed and counseled the patients (in my broken spanish), but I also gave out many recommedations to the doctors and dentist since we were limited on our supply of medications.
      But what I missed was the Christ and Good News aspect of missions. Since this was not a Christian mission trip, I didn't have enough opportunities to share Christ with the people who visited the pharmacy for the medications. I am really searching for a short term medical mission team that not only provides health care services but also and most importantly share the love of Christ!
      I tried to look you up on Campbell University's website but without a name its kind of hard :) If possible I would love find out more about your class and your mission trips!

  7. Thanks for posting this! I am currently in somewhat of the same situation of thinking as you....sort of. I am 22 years old and just finished a BS in Worship and Music Studies and Business. After school I got hired as a Pharm Tech (in November) and was nationally certified in January. I love the opportunities that I have to be among so many people throughout the week who need the hope that only Christ can offer, whether that be colleagues or clients. I am volunteering in a local church on the weekends with my Worship degree. Right now, I am contemplating going to school for Pharm D. I really enjoy retail pharmacy but feel incredibly limited due to lack of experience and legal limits as to what all I can do. Ninety percent of my thinking is that as a Pharm D I could be of more service on a medical missions team. Ten percent would be that I wouldn't have to worry about financials and could give a whole lot more on a Pharmacist's salary than a tech's salary. In order to do that though, I would have to go back and finish the math and science pre-reqs before even taking the PCAT. What would your advice be? By the way, if you are thinking seminary, I would encourage you to first check out a WONDERFUL 15 week class called Perspectives. Even after my degree in worship it is changing my heart and giving me a passion for the nations. Check them out at

  8. I also stumbled across this post at lunch time, and I'm in pretty much the exact same situation....a 27 year old pharmacist wondering what I can do on the missions field. I've done a residency and am board certified, currently working in hospital pharmacy. Alas, it's incredibly mundane and not fulfilling. I've worked hospital pharmacy for ~4 years, and retail for ~6.5 years already, and I think this is the worst job I've every had! Haha. I've explored multiple different options for missions trips, as a pharmacist or not, though I haven't been on one yet. My idea for now? Quit my job after I've fulfilled the obligation from the sign on bonus, go on a couple short term missions trips as a pharmacist in the meantime, then go on the World Race. Come December 2014 I'll be back stateside, unemployed, but hopefully with a much better idea of what I want to do in the future. I hope these experience will not only further open my heart, but also open my eyes to what opportunities may be available. Regardless, I also just hope that I'll be willing to not only hear God's call, but also respond to it gladly. I'm really excited for this World Race and hope to be a part of some amazing things through it! Check it out at if you're interested. I'll pray for each of you as well. Please do share any info/insight you may have! God bless.

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  11. I agree, it's more beneficial to everyone's welfare if pharmacists and doctors collaborate more on the subscription of certain medication. A doctor's medical expertise is invaluable, but so is a pharmacist's. They're the ones who handle the medicines subscribed through inspection systems, part of their job to make sure patients only receive the best for their healthcare.

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  18. This post echoes in my heart exactly. I am a second year pharmacy school student. The longer I am in school and work in pharmacy, the more my heart desires and the less satisfied I am. This is not the case with most of my classmates and I feel like God is calling me to do more then what I can do here in retail or hospital pharmacy but I haven't figured out what that looks like yet. As it has been a few years since you posted this, I would love to hear where you are at now. Thank you for sharing!