Andrea Thooft shares about her pharmacy school experience

Recent graduate Andrea Thooft shares about her experience at Concordia University Wisconsin's School of Pharmacy.

Andrea Thooft’s pharmacy school experience

Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy is proud to educate pharmacists and professionals to become service-oriented leaders who are dedicated to improving the health of our communities. Our faculty and staff inspire students to pursue excellence in teaching, research, service, and practice throughout their careers. If you’re thinking about applying to pharmacy school, it can be helpful to hear what the pharmacy school experience is all about. Recently, Andrea Thooft responded to some of our questions. Check out her answers below.

What was the best part of being a pharmacy student at Concordia?

When I started pharmacy school, I did not know exactly what area of pharmacy I wanted to pursue after graduation. One of the great things about Concordia is the faculty. I was able to sit down with several different members of the faculty to learn more about different areas of practice.

Dr. Stoehr shared with me the amazing work compounding pharmacists do to help meet their patient’s needs. Dr. Springer allowed me the opportunity to conduct research in her lab on Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Dr. Kostrzewa helped me discover one of my passions was in public health. Dr. Bartelme and Dr. LaDisa were willing to teach me in an independent study about women’s health. Everyone was approachable, willing to answer my questions, and helped me decide what kind of pharmacist I would like to be when I graduate.


What experiences made the biggest impact in your growth as a pharmacy student at Concordia?

Through my time at Concordia, I began to have an interest in women’s health. Prior to starting my 3rd year, I approached Dr. Bartelme and Dr. LaDisa. I asked them if it was possible for me to do an independent study course on women’s health. They were both very excited to take me on as a student. For that course, I was able to interview several health professionals working with women in healthcare. Additionally, I volunteered at a group home for pregnant women and their children experiencing homelessness. Lastly, I conducted a research project about a cultural group in Southeast Wisconsin regarding their health beliefs as it pertained to women’s health.

Overall, I gained so much experience through this course. I learned some of the challenges that women and underserved members in our community face. I was also able to create a poster on my cultural group and present it at the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin’s annual meeting. This class helped me grow as a pharmacist by learning what challenges my future patients may face. Also, it gave me additional professional experience through presenting my research at a conference. Finally, it solidified my passion for women’s health.


What are your career goals in pharmacy?

After graduation, I will be completing a PGY-1 Pharmacy Residency at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital in Madison, WI. I’m very excited for this residency to help expand on the knowledge I gained in pharmacy school. Also, I look forward to gaining confidence in becoming an independent pharmacist. UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital also delivers the most babies in the state of the Wisconsin. This residency will give me the opportunity to gain experience in one of my areas of interest which is maternal health.

Continuing to pursue women’s health

Once I complete my residency, I plan to continue working as a pharmacist with the goal of helping to improve maternal health. As a mom, I know how stressful it can be to find out you are pregnant and not know if the medications you are taking are safe for your baby.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I had a very hard time scheduling an appointment with my doctor to discuss my medications. When I contacted my primary care physician, they referred me to the obstetrics clinic. However, the obstetrics clinic would not see me until I was 8 weeks pregnant. I was frustrated, scared, and confused about what to do. Eventually I was able to meet with my doctor, but I imagine I’m not the only woman who has had these concerns and challenges. My goal is to become a resource to pregnant women or women planning on becoming pregnant to help them navigate their medications during pregnancy.


What has been the most memorable moment of your time in pharmacy school at Concordia?

Some of the most memorable moments of my time in pharmacy school at Concordia was studying with my classmates before exams. The evening before exams, we would get take-out from a local restaurant in Mequon. Then, we’d grab one of the breakout rooms. We’d review the material we were going to be tested on. Next, we’d pair up with other study groups and play Kahoots that were created by classmates. It was so much fun studying with a group of friends. We learned so much more by studying as a group. Together we were able to teach each other the material in which we were confident. We could learn from others what different tools or memory tricks they developed for the material.


Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

Prior to coming to pharmacy school, I was a graduate student studying organic chemistry. I loved doing research and probing the properties of fluorescent molecules. However, I felt a desire to do something with my future career where I could make a difference in people’s lives. It was at that point that I remembered something my dad had said to me before I went to graduate school. He asked me if I’d ever considered becoming a pharmacist. Due to his medical history, he has depended on pharmacists throughout his life to help him with his medications. I decided that I should consider becoming a pharmacist.

Why pharmacy made sense for Andrea

Pharmacists are some of the most accessible members of a medical team to the public. They can be found at stores throughout a community, and no appointment is necessary to see them. They also play an important role in advising prescribers on appropriate medication therapy. I saw becoming a pharmacist as an opportunity to use my chemistry background to make an impact more directly in people’s lives. Also, I saw the variety of career opportunities that would be available to me upon graduation. For example, I could go back to research, practice as an inpatient pharmacist, work in a community pharmacy, etc. Ultimately, I’m so glad that I chose this path. I love the impact I’ve had on patients through my clinical rotations, and I’m excited to see where my career will take me.


What advice do you have for future students considering to attend pharmacy school at Concordia?

My advice to students planning on attending pharmacy school is to find a group of students to study with. I found that I learned so much more when I studied with a group than when I was studying by myself. Studying with a group also just makes studying more fun. You have your friends to discuss challenging concepts, learn different memory tricks, and laugh with.

Gain as much experience as possible

Another piece of advice is to into rotations with an open mind. If possible, choose a variety of site locations. Every rotation, whether it is an area of pharmacy that you plan on pursuing a career in or not, is a learning and growing experience. Rotations are your chance to learn about new things and discover new areas in pharmacy that you may not have known about previously.

I’ve been able to do some amazing things during this past year of rotations. For example, I celebrated with a patient whose systolic blood pressure went from the 170’s to the 120’s. I’ve also shadowed in the cardiac catherization lab to see a heart catheterization and pacemaker implantation. Also, I conducted a topic discussion on stimulant use in pregnancy. This was for the Prenatal Substance Exposure team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Having a positive attitude and open mind allowed me to gain the most out of these experiences. It will continue to help guide me in my future practice as a pharmacist.

Concordia University School of Pharmacy is a great place to learn. The faculty is approachable and incredibly passionate about their area of practice and teaching. If you are unsure of what area of pharmacy you wish to pursue in your future career, they are happy to answer whatever questions you have. If you are going into pharmacy school already with a career path in mind, they will gladly help guide you so you can achieve your goals. The school is also passionate about helping the community and growing as servant leaders.


Do you want to know more?

If you’re interested in learning more about Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy, visit us here.

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.