Mentors in Health: An Interview with a Pharmacist

I love making a difference in any life. When you can ease someone’s worries, or if they just left the hospital and everything was explained to them right before discharge and now they are stressed and scared, I am here to help them. That’s what we sign up for.

Christopher Yanoschak, RPh, PharmD, Graduate of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University

Pharmacists make people feel good again. As medication specialists, they dispense prescription medications to patients and also act as consulting experts on the safe use of those substances. This is no small task: two-thirds of American adults already use prescription drugs, and an increasingly aging population will push these numbers higher. Pharmacists are on the front lines of making sure those medications are issued and consumed properly.

It’s a wider field than one might first think. There are community pharmacists, clinical pharmacists, consultant pharmacists, and industry pharmacists. They can work in retail, research, and education, as well as in hospitals, hospice, independent pharmacy ownership, or other niche environments. Advocacy issues like drug pricing and the opioid epidemic are major national topics that expert pharmacists continue to weigh in on. Advancements in biologics and biosimilars point to innovative new directions for the concept of medicine. It all goes far beyond just filling prescriptions.

On a personal level, many pharmacists choose their profession because of an intrinsic desire to help other people. They often get to work face-to-face with patients, build relationships, and see the outcome of a successful course of treatment. But how and where they choose to do that work—and how they navigate their path through school, licensure, and hiring—is a matter of individual choice. To get a glimpse of one pharmacist’s journey, read on.

Interview with a Pharmacist: Christopher Yanoschak, RPh, PharmD

Christopher Yanoschak is a graduate of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and currently works in retail pharmacy for Boyt Drugs. For Yanoschak, there wasn’t much question about what he wanted to become. Both his father and grandfather were pharmacists, and they acted as the go-to person for any friends and family with medical questions. While they never purposefully steered Christopher towards following in their footsteps, he was drawn to the profession through a mix of exposure and respect.

“I love making a difference in any life,” Yanoschak says. “When you can ease someone’s worries, or if they just left the hospital and everything was explained to them right before discharge and now they are stressed and scared, I am here to help them. That’s what we sign up for. It isn’t driving scripts.”

The academic journey began with two years of undergrad at Rutgers Camden, followed by four years of a PharmD program at Rutgers New Brunswick. The transfer caused Yanoschak to need to take pharmaceutical chemistry all over again, which meant he took the metaphorical scenic route to his degree. But it wasn’t time wasted.

“During undergrad I joined Alpha Zeta Omega Pharmaceutical Fraternity,” Yanoschak says. “This decision turned out to be crucial to my professional success.”

Alpha Zeta Omega (AZO) is a pharmaceutical fraternity composed of pharmacists and undergraduates in pharmacy, with members selected on the basis of character, fellowship, and scholarship. Originally known as the Dead Men’s Club, it long ago shed its secretive origins and pushed on with a mission of promoting the profession of pharmacy, developing high standards of scholarship, and bringing together professional men and women who practice ethical ideals and faithful service in their chosen profession.

In addition to using the fraternity to connect and confer with other pharmacists, Yanoschak took on several leadership roles for Alpha Zeta Omega, and he currently serves as his Alumni Chapter President.

While in school, Yanoschak asked every pharmacist he knew about what their job entailed. Thanks to AZO, that was a lot of pharmacists. And, already learning as much as he could in the classroom, he started working in a hospital pharmacy to gain some hands-on experience. After several years, he switched into a position at CVS.

“I originally was training with CVS to become a supervisor,” Yanoschak says. “This meant once I became a pharmacy manager, I was responsible for the entire profit and loss of the store. As my store became more successful, I became a leader to help other stores improve their metrics.”

In his last year of school, Yanoschak had a community pharmacy rotation, and it felt like it was the perfect fit. He kept working at CVS through graduation and licensure, then transferred into his current role at an independent community pharmacy, where his responsibilities are more immediate. He’s in control of the narcotic inventory, several clinical programs, and other financial evaluation metrics.

“Originally, I wanted to be a pharmacist in a hospital, whether clinical or staff, but then I shifted my interest to direct patient care in a community pharmacy,” Yanoschak says. “This was because I enjoyed speaking with people and educating them on their conditions or medications.”

Now, most of Yanoschak’s days are spent managing whatever individual cases and needs come his way. His town has an understanding and friendly patient base, and most if not all prescriptions are filled within 15 minutes. The atmosphere is laid back and friendly, and for that, Yanoschak feels blessed.

“I had lots of loans coming out of school,” Yanoschak says. “I compensated by working as much as I could. That proved to be a mistake.”

The hustle to earn enough to pay back the loans as quickly as possible took a toll on Yanoschak’s mental and physical health. While occasionally going over 40 hours a week would’ve been fine, he was constantly clocking over 50 hours a week, skipping meals and filling every open day with another (sometimes 14-hour) shift. Friendships and relationships began to suffer, and Yanoschak realized he had to dial it back.

Shifting to a slightly more sane schedule has allowed him to make room for others, for himself, and even for a new dog: an adopted lab mix (who might have a little pit in her, too, given the way she likes to play).

“Take care of yourself,” Yanoschak says, in giving advice to aspiring pharmacists, “and take care of your future.”

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He’s been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt’s writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.

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