"...never give up and dream BIG....Remember why you started. Your why is what keeps you focused, grounded, and energized."
Ms. Burks attended SHPEP in 2020. Today, she is a first-year pharmacy student at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (College of Pharmacy) and will graduate in May 2026.
What path did you take when you first started college?
When I started my undergraduate studies, I majored in chemistry. I have always been on the pre-pharmacy track. I later switched to a biology degree due to my degree fulfilling a majority of the pharmacy school prerequisites. Upon my research, I found that chemistry was based on a practical and theoretical approach. Biology focused on a wide array of studies including chemistry, other sciences, and math.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
My interest in a health profession stemmed from my love of sciences and passion for helping people, especially in rural, medically underserved areas. I took a health professions course in high school, leading me to explore other options further. I was knowledgeable about typical healthcare professions such as nursing, physicians, and dentistry. I knew that I wanted to work directly with people and indirectly with blood.
Who are what inspired you?
I am inspired by my parents and brother. They are my biggest supporters and motivators. They have been encouraging every step of the way. Simply, my family is my inspiration.
What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?
The most significant obstacle I overcame was failing two classes in my first semester of undergraduate school. It was a very humbling experience for me. Then, I was involved in undergrad without a healthy balance between schoolwork and leadership positions. I firmly believe that it is not what you go through but how you get and grow through it. Each obstacle that I experienced in my education journey was meant to be a lesson. I used my failures as means of fuel to push me closer to pursuing my dreams. Failing taught me discipline. I became more resilient, and it aided in my personal and professional growth.
What are some of your recent milestones?
My most recent milestones include graduating from The University of Alabama in three years. This August 2022, I started my first year of pharmacy school. I also have started a pharmacy school journey social media account. The account on Instagram is @thepassionate.rx. Here, I post my journey from applying to the end goal of graduating in 2026, tips, encouragement, and how I balance being involved and a student.
What makes your story unique?
My story is unique because it is my own. My experiences have molded me into the woman I am becoming. I have always felt that I had to work harder than others especially coming from a southeast, rural town in Alabama. I turned nothing into something. Most people from my hometown graduate and become complacent. I defied all odds. I also do not come from a traditional family of healthcare professionals. My parents work in corporate America and have a military background. I created my own story, and I am inspired to share it. From failing classes to becoming overwhelmed and feeling defeated to getting into my top choice of pharmacy school. I am the epitome of a true dreamer.
What surprised you the most about graduate/health professional school?
What surprised me most about pharmacy school was the process. For the most part, it was smooth. However, the interview was slightly intense. Prior to interviewing I compiled the necessary information. I explored the PharmCAS before applying. The suspense was a real post-pharmacy interview. I was most nervous about the results.
How did SHPEP influence you?
SHPEP influenced me because it provided me with opportunities that I may not have received through any other program. SHPEP is a nationally recognized program that is vital to my personal and professional development. I am grateful that this program provided me with the necessary information and resources for an underrepresented student like myself. The networking through SHPEP is incomparable. And it provided me with an overview of what to expect within the field of pharmacy and working with other healthcare professionals.
Do you remember your first day of graduate studies? What memory stands out the most?
The memory that stood out the most on my first day of pharmacy school was the first day of class. As I entered the classroom, I felt immediate excitement and anxiousness. All my hard work had come to fruition. I felt like a first-year student all over again. I did not know my way around campus or where to go. With time, I have been able to become acclimated to the campus. I also was excited to dress up in business casual and professional attire. I felt like a future pharmacist and professional student.
What has been your favorite part of the process? The most difficult?
My favorite part of this process has been becoming acclimated to the curriculum and meeting new people within the college of pharmacy. The most difficult part of the process has been adjusting to a new city, studying, and finding appropriate ways to retain information effectively and efficiently.
Did you have experiences or mentors that prepared you for a career as a health professional?
I utilized previous professors from my undergraduate studies who received a Doctorate in Pharmacy. I also had former supervisors whom I worked for in a pharmacy that guided me. Some experiences that prepared me for my professional career were working in a pharmacy and taking on leadership roles.
What is the best career advice you have received?
The best career advice that I received is always to do your best even when others are not watching. Also, treat people the way you would want to be treated.
What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career?
The advice that I have for students pursuing a health professional career is to never give up and dream BIG. If it were easy then everyone would be doing it. Times may get hard and studying may get rough, but you must remember your why. Remember why you started. Your why is what keeps you focused, grounded, and energized. The why gets you to the what. It is your cause, motivator, and purpose. Also, if you fail then try again. If you fail again then try again. Failure leads to success. Failures are meant to teach you, not deter you.