Isaiah Kilgas graduates with his PharmD degree

Meet Isaiah Kilgas (’23). A School of Pharmacy graduate, he’ll begin Concordia’s competitive ambulatory care/teaching residency following commencement.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting a few Concordia’s uncommon May 2023 graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here

It’s good to be known. Even if it is as “Moira Kilgas’ little brother”.

Isaiah Kilgas has long since stepped into his own at Concordia University Wisconsin, but when he first began his collegiate tenure in 2016 many identified him—albeit fondly, but first and foremost—as a sibling. His sister had enrolled at CUW two years prior and quickly built a reputation as a high-achieving student who was heavily involved around campus. 

As flattering as the association was, the possibility of pigeon-holing himself into someone else’s shadow almost dissuaded Isaiah from attending CUW altogether. However, visit after visit to “big state schools” came up short. It was Concordia that filled the missing void, said Isaiah. More specifically, it was the people at Concordia who made the difference, from countless professors all the way through to people like Allie Schulthess in housekeeping whom he would frequently encounter cleaning in his residence hall at the end of the day.  

“I felt like more than a number here,” Isaiah said. “It’s kind of a cliché phrase, but very true. Another school choice definitely could have caused me to go a different direction in my life and in my career.”

Isaiah’s Concordia path led to a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He also matched to Concordia’s competitive 24-month PGY1 Pharmacy Practice and Academic Leadership Residency, an indication of his academic excellence and leadership potential. He’ll celebrate his accomplishments on Friday during Concordia’s graduate-level commencement ceremony.

The appeal of residencies

Postgraduate pharmacy residency training programs are highly attractive positions. Residencies equip pharmacy graduates with advanced clinical training that is more focused and rigorous than what they receive through their traditional pharmacy school rotations. Professionals estimate that one year of residency is equivalent to about three years of pharmacy practice experience.

This explains why demand for residency opportunities continues to grow nationwide. In the past decade alone, there has been a 64 percent increase in residency applicants and a 66 percent increase in residency positions; however, the rate of unmatched applications remains relatively unchanged. Despite the odds, CUW students continually achieve impressive residency match rates. This year, CUW School of Pharmacy had the 9th-best results in the nation and the second-highest rate in the state. 

Specializing in ambulatory care

The residency Isaiah matched with is one that CUW created in 2014. It is unique in that it is a two-year opportunity, whereas most residencies are just one year. The Pharmacy Practice and Academic Leadership Residency splits the postgraduate’s time between ambulatory care performed at an off-site location with Progressive Community Health Centers and teacher/faculty training within Concordia pharmacy classrooms.

The ambulatory care setting is especially appealing to Isaiah because it allows him to interact with patients on a more regular and long-term basis. The patients he’ll work with at Progressive have chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. As a result, Isaiah will get to see some patients as frequently as twice a month.

Bringing positivity and passion to the workplace

Not only does Isaiah enjoy working with others, he has a particular gift for making people feel seen and cared for, said Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Francesca Napolitano Johnson, PharmD. Napolitano Johnson served as a preceptor for Isaiah this past academic year and also sat on the review committee for Concordia’s residency applicants.

“I think what made Isaiah really stand out this year is his incredibly positive attitude, his passion, his empathy, and his Christian faith,” she said. “He has a beautiful way of connecting with others and making others’ days just a little bit better with his shiny personality.”

Isaiah explains that his motivation to serve others comes from his identity in Christ.

“My perspective is: I’m saved. I’m going to heaven. It’s an awesome ride!” Isaiah said. “When the door to that conversation inevitably gets opened with patients, I’ll tell them about my faith in Jesus. I’ll use His joy through me to reflect onto others.”

My perspective is: I’m saved. I’m going to heaven. It’s an awesome ride! I’ll use His joy through me to reflect onto others.

Isaiah Kilgas (’23)

Relationship building can be a powerful tool for accountability and motivation. It’s not the reason why Isaiah is kind to his patients, but he recognizes that getting to know people can help others want to improve and to perform better for you. He experienced that himself while at Concordia. Professors would demonstrate a vested interest in him or an especially strong passion for their subject, and he, in turn, would be intent to make them proud.

Through his continual achievements and ever-pleasant demeanor, Isaiah quickly became known around Concordia as someone more than just another’s sibling.

“Everyone wants to be known to some degree,” Isaiah said. “To be seen is kind of to be loved. I’m very relationship driven and having those relationships helps me want to do better and perform better for others.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people,” he continued. “Pharmacy is perfect for me because I get to help people and nerd out a bit. It’s a joy to work directly with people.”

Want in?

As a CUW pharmacy student, you can expect to participate in active applied learning throughout your degree program. Our accomplished faculty teach and mentor each individual student in a welcoming Christ-centered environment. Our highest priority is helping you develop your talents for a rewarding life, not only a career.