Andrea Ortiz RiveraAndrea Ortiz Rivera

Andrea Ortiz Rivera always knew she would earn a doctorate. Growing up in a high-achieving family in Puerto Rico, it was something that she had worked towards her entire life.

Daughter of a pharmacist (mother) and an engineer (father), Ortiz Rivera and her siblings were encouraged to work hard and study with focus to be accomplished and to make a difference. When Ortiz Rivera accepts her Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from Concordia University Wisconsin on Friday, May 12, she will be closer to her goal to help people back in Puerto Rico live better, healthier lives.

As a biology student at a university in Puerto Rico, Ortiz Rivera was inspired by her mother to consider pharmacy and searched for schools in the United States to pursue her degree. Concordia University Wisconsin’s emphasis on Christian values and community pharmacy got her attention.

According to Ortiz Rivera, “I attended Catholic schools my entire life so I was looking for a place where my values and faith would be integrated into my learning.  Concordia offered me an education that focused on community health and research so I could really help people have better lives.”

While she wasn’t sure she would adjust to the Wisconsin climate, her attachment to Concordia was immediate. She was impressed by the care and personal attention she received during her first campus visit.

“Upon walking in the door I knew that I belonged at Concordia,” said Ortiz Rivera. “The professors were genuinely interested in me and my goals and the school offered so many programs and opportunities for me to learn from which I could extract values and knowledge to apply in Milwaukee and my community in Puerto Rico.”

In addition to the coursework, Ortiz Rivera was interested in learning about the practice of pharmacy in other cultures so she could apply this learning back to her community in Puerto Rico. She elected to complete her Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) in Peru as part of the school’s study abroad program. While there, she made a special connection with her preceptor, Dr. Patricia Leon, a pediatric pharmacist and business owner.

“As the owner of her own pharmacy, Dr. Leon is able to develop deeper relationships with her patients and really help them feel better,” Ortiz Rivera said. “It’s so easy to get lost in health care and forget what you’re actually there for, which is the patient. Because of my experience with Dr. Leon, I know that I want to be empowered to serve people and help them get the treatment and medications they so desperately need in the way that is best for each individual.”

While Ortiz Rivera is receiving her Pharm.D. degree this weekend from the Concordia University School of Pharmacy, her Wisconsin student days are far from over. Within a couple weeks she’ll be back on campus as a business student pursuing her MBA to reach her ultimate goal of becoming a pharmacy manager, just like her mentor, Dr. Patricia Leon.

Said Ortiz Rivera, “I’m an endless student. I feel so accomplished earning my Pharm.D. degree. I want to keep learning and am excited to make a difference in Milwaukee, especially within the Hispanic culture, and eventually back home in Puerto Rico.”


Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of stories featuring some of our unique or exemplary Class of 2017 May graduates. More stories will be posted on our Graduation Tab in the days leading up to commencement.


— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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