Mr. Ramos participated in SHPEP in 2019 at the University of Louisville. He studied industrial microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. Today, he is a first year pharmacy student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

What path did you take when you first started college?

I studied and completed my pharmacy prerequisites under the major of Industrial Microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez. I knew from the time I started my studies that pharmacy was the health career I wanted to pursue.

What led to your interest in a health profession?

In 2017, the strenuous passing of Hurricane María over Puerto Rico deteriorated the population, and economy, but made me who I am today. I lived through a three-month eye-opening experience with no electricity, limited water, and food. Later, in January 2020, five earthquakes with magnitudes over 5.0 shook the island and left thousands without homes in only four days.  Living a similar story again made me realize how vulnerable humans are when facing such adverse natural catastrophes. Seeing how scarce healthcare options were and noticing the very minimal amount of available health professionals in my island during those peculiar moments, are some of the reasons that led me to actively pursue a career in the healthcare arena that will allow me to help in future disasters.

Who are what inspired you?

One of my biggest inspirations for pursuing a health profession is my best friend. I remember being in high school when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to leave Puerto Rico to receive proper treatment. Like her, there are thousands of children and adults in Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries who must leave their respective nations to get the adequate health treatment. Not only do they have to go through the difficulty of the disease, but also the language barriers. My desire is to leave my island during these years of study, so I can help advocate for my Latino community and give them the support they need. One of my goals is to be able to do rotations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is one of the reasons why I am going to Memphis for pharmacy school.

The thought that someday I will be able to walk through those doors and be an advocator and supporter to an underrepresented minority family is my driving force to keep fighting. I look forward to helping Latino children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital fighting cancer and telling him/her: “estoy contigo y saldremos de esta “, which translated to English means, “I am with you, and we will emerge from this situation”.

What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?

Due to the catastrophes I have faced Puerto Rico, I have gone one month and even two months without classes due to the recovery of my island and the lack of resources. I would say that the biggest obstacle during these circumstances is the thought of whether I will be able to make it. Both because of the physical and emotional situations. However, I am proud that today I can be an example of the product of persistence and never giving up on dreams no matter how difficult the circumstances are.

What are some of your recent milestones?

I would say that my most recent milestone is being the first member of my entire family to go to graduate school to become a doctor.

What makes your story unique?

Being Puerto Rican has made me stronger over the years due to the situations I have lived through.  I would say that the most beautiful characteristic I have acquired from my island is resilience. From going through the most devastating hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean, to month-long earthquakes that left thousands homeless and jobless, living in Puerto Rico for the past four years has not been an easy adventure. The economic situation of our country has deteriorated over the years and catastrophes have been a major barrier in recovery. Everything I have been through and have had to overcome, I know it will only make me a better pharmacist. I have acquired empathy, camaraderie, working hard for my dreams, and never giving up when faced with life challenges.

How did SHPEP influence you?

In the summer of 2019, I was chosen for the Summer Health Education Program at the University of Louisville under the Pharmacy Program. While shadowing a pharmacist at Norton’s Children Hospital, I indulged in the dispensation, distribution, and consultation of different medications. I was able to walk through patients’ rooms while the pharmacist distributed medications and ensured that every patient was taking their medications correctly. Doing so was a very joyous and satisfactory experience for me because I physically witnessed how each patient was  receiving excellent care. By the end of those 6 weeks, I could finally visualize myself serving in this profession. If it wasn’t for the experiences that SHPEP provided me, I would never have been able to get a physical insight of what the pharmacy profession is like.

What has been your favorite part of the process? The most difficult?

My favorite part of this process is being able to see that every little effort I have made over the past few years is finally paying off. Allowing me to get closer and closer to my goal of becoming a pharmacist.  While the hardest part for me has been the impostor syndrome. The doubt and the thought of whether I will be good enough or if I will ever make it. However, I am a true believer that each person has their own path, and we are just walking through the process. The important thing is to keep fighting no matter the demotivation or difficulties that may be faced and keep your eyes on the goal. Because not even the sky is the limit, we define how far we are going to go.

What is the best career advice you have received?

Remember that you are not working and striving for your pride, but to save lives that will depend on you.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career.

My advice would be to remember who you are. Not everyone goes through the same processes and circumstances. Therefore, comparing ourselves to other people who may seem more successful, would not be measured on the same scale. Keep your eyes on the goal and most importantly recognize the potential you carry. Because that potential, your desire and dedication are what will take you to save lives in places you could never have imagined.

Posted: September 2021