Coffee and Pharmacy with Jessica Arabi

Written and photographed by Jeffery Lo

Hi all, here’s the second installment of Coffee and Pharmacy with current P2, Jessica “Jessie” Arabi. Jessie grew up in Livonia, Michigan and attended Wayne State before transferring into the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of Michigan.

Jeff: I’m always interested in how people get to where they are, so brought you here?

Jessie: Well, I kind of knew from the start that I wanted to go into healthcare because I was always into science, chemistry, and biology, but I wasn’t sure which subfield to pursue. I remember sitting in my high school anatomy class and we started going over a lot of neuroanatomy. I learned how drugs could affect your brain and thought that was really awesome.

I started looking into pharmacy and when I saw all the options possible I realized that there were many things in the field that interested me. Adding to that, my high school teacher pushed me further towards pharmacy. He said, “I think you would make a good pharmacist,” so I took that and rolled with it.

What did you do after high school, where did you go to college?

I went to Wayne State University.

What did you major in?

I actually didn’t get a degree. I ended up doing their pre-pharmacy track, which was about 3 years.

Do you have any regrets about not getting an undergraduate degree?

At first I was pretty iffy about it, seeing that most people who apply to pharmacy school have bachelor’s degrees; I thought that not having one may set me back. But looking back at it, I don’t regret it. I thought it was the right choice for me because I knew that I wanted to pursue pharmacy. I really didn’t see myself doing another extra year of undergrad.

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Is that challenging in any way, like in terms of competing with other people who have bachelor’s degrees?

I’ve seen people who have gotten degrees in chemistry who may be better off in classes like Med Chem, so I guess that could be a bit of a challenge, but otherwise I don’t feel that I’m limited in my opportunities here.

On the flipside, do you feel like there’s anything that you do better than others who have degrees here? Any advantages to being younger?

Yea, I can get a start on my career and life a year earlier. I guess not a lot of 24 year olds can say that they have their PharmD!

Yea…I’ll be 29 when I graduate… 😦

It’s kind of fun to rub it in a little bit.

Are you planning on doing a residency?

I’m looking into it, but I’m not really sure what I want to do yet. I’m really into independent pharmacy and I really like specialty pharmacy. I’ve shadowed quite a lot of pharmacists in in-patient settings like critical care in the cardiovascular ICU.

My feeling is unless you want to go industry or retail, residency is the next step. There’s a residency program for everything: am(bulatory) care, managed care, even community pharmacy. If you want to jumpstart your career in clinical pharmacy, residency is the way to go.

Are you planning on staying in Michigan?

Yea, I think I do. I’m not opposed to moving, but right now I want to stay close to home.

What do you like doing on your free time?

I love watching TV and movies. Besides being a couch potato, I like swimming, I’ve done it for years.

Did you swim in college or high school?

Not in college, just in high school.

Not like Brian Bazzell? 😉 (Current P2, who was an All-American Swimmer)

Nope, definitely not an NCAA champ, but honestly I missed the days when I could swim a lot. It was relaxing.

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Do you feel like you generally take the stress of school pretty well?

Yea, generally. The curriculum does get harder during P2; you get slammed with a lot of things. You’re still trying to be involved in orgs, keep your grades up, and all these other things, but so far it’s been okay.

If you were to put P1 and P2 year in terms of difficulty on a scale of 1-10? Where would they be?

Overall, P1 is about a 4. 1st semester of P1 year was a bit difficult not because of the course load, but because of the adjustment period where you’re trying to find your place and get a feel of how things will be for the next couple of years. I found that a bit difficult. 2nd semester of P1 was harder in terms of course load because of Therapeutics and Med Chem. I feel like that’s when you really start getting into the “pharmacy” sort of stuff.

P2 year so far…oh gosh, I’d rate it at about a 7?

What’s difficult about it? Is it the content or volume?

I think it’s both the volume and the content. It’s definitely a juggling act, there’s always something to finish. Med Chem definitely gets harder. I feel like that’s one of the biggest struggles right now. Other than that, we’ve all been hanging in there.

That’s why I kind of gather from the P2’s, you all always tell me that I don’t even know what’s coming.

Yea, haha, pretty much. You’ll make it through, you find ways to manage your school/life balance and keep yourself sane. You can’t be all about school at this point. Personally, I like going out and being with my friends on my days off. You have keep yourself looking forward to something.

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What are you looking forward to now, winter break?

That, but I’m more talking about looking forward to smaller things like planning to do something on the weekend. Or like for us, every Wednesday is trivia night. So every week I’ll look forward to going to Charley’s and doing trivia night.

Make time for school, but also make time for fun, that’s my biggest advice.

Yea, I’m trying to do that more, especially with that whole New York thing. I’m hoping that I can go during Spring Break again.

Definitely plan something. It keeps you going and keeps you motivated. It’s easy to get caught in a slump.

Well, I don’t have much more to ask, do you have anything to add for students or future students?

I guess a little more to add about why I decided to apply to here. Like I said, I applied without a bachelor’s degree and thought that I would be at a disadvantage, but UM likes to look at the whole package when you apply. Maybe you don’t have a degree, but you may have done something really awesome in undergrad like really interesting research.

Like for me, I worked at University Pharmacy in Detroit at Wayne State and participated in Wellness Warriors Clinics where we did biometric screenings for faculty at Wayne State. I got to take height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and sit in on counseling sessions with UM and Wayne State P4 students.

Show that you’re passionate about something. You don’t necessarily have to be the president of a club or have a huge resume, but be able to talk about something that means a lot to you in your interviews. I know admissions at other schools depend a lot on just your GPA and PCAT. UM cares about those things, but they also pay a lot of attention to your extracurricular work and experiences too. I think that’s what makes us diverse here at UM.

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