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Selena Liu is a second-year pharmaceutical doctorate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. Liu completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington in 2022, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and a minor in Chemistry. Liu has volunteered at community organizations such as the Vietnam Health Clinic and Seattle Children’s Hospital and is currently a pharmacy intern at Virginia Mason Hospital and Safeway Grocery Inc. Liu is projected to complete her doctoral studies in 2026. 

Question: Tell us about yourself. Describe any experience that influenced your decision to apply to pharmacy school. What are your career goals in pharmaceuticals? What is something important to you or about you that you would like us to know?

It was five o’clock – rush hour as everyone is getting off of work, stopping by the pharmacy to pick up their prescription as the last errand of the day. It was my eighth hour on the clock as a pharmacy assistant, and my feet were starting to hurt from standing, but what had my full attention was my manager teaching me the directions for amoxicillin and its potential side effects so that I could translate it in Chinese to the patients I was helping at the pick-up window. After confirming their understanding of when and how to take the drug and the importance of finishing the prescribed quantity, I thanked them for being patient and waiting in line. They thanked me numerous times as well, appreciative of having someone who spoke their native tongue to assist them so that they could fully understand what was going on.

Working at South Seattle’s Safeway pharmacy, I gained valuable experience working under pharmacists and technicians, as well as working with a diverse clientele. I saw first-hand the importance of a patient-provider relationship in helping patients understand their medication regimen as well as bridging healthcare disparities in the pharmacy by educating patients in and administering immunizations. The experience and lessons I learned while working inside a Safeway pharmacy gave me the confidence that pursuing a degree in pharmacy was the right path for me.

I first became interested in an education and career in pharmacy when I was in elementary school. Every Saturday, my grandmother would bring out her empty pill box for next week, and one bottle at a time, I would read the instructions on the label and put the appropriate amount for a daily dosage into each compartment of the box. I was intrigued by how every pill looked different, and how taking them daily is helping restore my grandmother’s health. I asked my grandmother weekly how these drugs are helping her, and her answer would always be, “I don’t know, you would have to go to school and find out.”

Entering high school, my interest in biology and chemistry only strengthened, leading me to intern at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center the summer after my junior year. I was able to culture human colon cancer cells and follow my mentor’s process on plating them spherically into wells for assays for her cell metabolism research. Learning these terms for the first time, I realized that there were many components involved in explaining how a drug works and targets different types and parts of cells.

Eager to further this knowledge, I was directly admitted into the University of Washington as a biochemistry major. I learned human physiology and how certain drugs can inhibit or activate different pathways and enzymes and their potential side effects. This only solidified my decision to pursue a career in pharmacy where I can integrate this knowledge in a useful manner in my daily life and teach others about the drugs they are taking.

After my first year of pursuing my undergraduate degree, my grandmother unfortunately had to move to an assisted living facility due to worsening Parkinson’s disease. Throughout the years, I witnessed her mental health deteriorate and movements become uncontrollable. As a second-year pharmacy student, I just completed my psychology learning block where I learned more about Parkinson’s disease, tardive dyskinesia, and depression. Applying this knowledge to my personal experiences, I want to help adults suffering from Parkinson’s disease make their condition more manageable and mitigate as many side effects from pharmacotherapy as possible, which includes treating comorbid diseases. In addition, I am also a pursuing a Plein Certificate in Geriatrics to better tailor my clinical knowledge towards older adults like my grandmother.

In addition to research and the material learned as a student furthering my passion, I began working as a pharmacy assistant the summer after I graduated high school to understand the pharmacy workflow. Every day at the fill station and will-call, I was seeing names of medications I had never seen before, and I was guided by my curiosity to ask my pharmacists questions about what certain drugs are used for and started remembering common brand and generic drug names. My manager, Gina, was always willing to answer my questions and look up answers she did not know. In addition, Gina always provided feedback and suggestions on how to improve.

After a year as an assistant, I became an on-the-job technician trainee and learned to take on more, such as process prescriptions and insurance claims. I soon became a Certified Pharmacy Technician and provided support and advice to new technician trainees at my pharmacy in addition to working at an inpatient pharmacy to gain additional perspectives on different sectors of pharmacy. Gina’s effective leadership by giving support and constructive criticism is something that I admire and plan to take on as a pharmacist myself as this quality motivated me to excel at my role within the pharmacy. As a now-intern at that same Safeway, I find myself taking on as many pharmacist responsibilities as I can during my shift such as initiating transfers, clarifying medications with doctors, and counseling patients as well as being a leader and delegating roles amongst interns, assistants, and technicians when it is busy and stressful. 

As being a pharmacist is my primary aspiration, I also want to work within a diverse community such as the one I am in right now and move forward to help further bridge healthcare disparities. I am currently vice president of Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) and have been involved in this organization since my first year of entering pharmacy school. I have volunteered at numerous health fairs in Washington, providing access to A1c, lipid, and blood pressure readings to those who are underserved and connecting them with Public Health to find better access to healthcare. Comprehensive care is critical for one’s health, and pharmacy is included within that for patients to understand their health and maintain healthy habits at home.

My future goals as a pharmacist include precepting future pharmacy students at health fairs as well as working with underserved patients directly in an ambulatory care setting to arrive to the best patient-centered health plan for each individual while mitigating side effects and treating comorbid conditions with an emphasis on the older adult population from the impact my grandmother has made on my life.