"Apply to all the scholarship, internship, research, or shadowing opportunities available"
Ms. Morales-Cortés is a second-year (PY2) Pharm.D. student at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus School of Pharmacy. She will graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in May 2025.
What path did you take when you first started college?
When I first started college, I was majoring in Environmental Sciences. In my first year of college, I discovered the pharmacy field by looking for information about different healthcare professions. Also, the field of pharmacy was not featured enough, but thanks to the Future Pharmacists Association (FPA)on my campus I attended a seminar about pharmacy school and that made me want to learn more about the field and the diversity within it.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
I feel an urgent need to keep educating myself, pursuing a PharmD, combining my passion for the pharmaceutical discipline and for medically serving the underserved without limits. I aspire to be part of a collaborative team in the healthcare industry that supports society’s commonwealth by providing medical care and advocating for its patients. Every patient should feel safe, understood, and comforted by their healthcare provider. Hence, that is what principally led my interest in a health profession.
Who are what inspired you?
What currently inspires me is the people who despite living in a world where greediness reigns, they repeatedly choose to do good, to make this world a better place for underserved and underrepresented communities.
What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?
During my educational career, I have overcome several hardships. Just when I was starting my first year of undergraduate studies in 2017, a category 5 hurricane (Huracan María) struck Puerto Rico. This atmospheric event left the island with several months without power. Life for Puerto Ricans was put on hold, and up to this day, we still face the consequences of such a natural disaster. Forwarding to January 2020, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the south of Puerto Rico, leaving many families homeless and in desperate need of every basic necessity. A couple of months later, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic altered our modus operandi and made life overall and as a pre-health student a lot harder. More recently in August 2021, I started my studies as a Pharm.D. candidate, coming with a lot of new challenges. During this whole time, my family has been overcoming economic situations, but different scholarships and types of financial aid have made it possible for me to get educated. At the end of the day, these circumstances make us stronger and able to overcome life adversities with a better attitude.
What are some of your recent milestones?
- Recipient of the CVS Spanish Scholarship Award – Spring 2022
- Recipient of the Endowment Fund scholarship of the University of Puerto Rico – 2022
- Summer Trainee at the Cancer Prevention and Control (CAPAC) Research Training Program at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center (UPR-CCC) – June-August 2022
- Awaiting response for a submitted scientific manuscript as a first author. Title: “A review of neonatal abstinence syndrome cases and corresponding pharmacotherapy approaches: 12 observations from two university-affiliated neonatal units between 2018-2020”
- Co-authored an article for the Pharmaceutical Magazine of the “Colegio de Farmacéuticos de Puerto Rico” [article link].
What makes your story unique?
What makes my story unique are the situations I overcame to get to where I am now, the people that continuously support me, and the experiences that I have had the opportunity to come across.
What surprised you the most about graduate/health professional school?
What surprised me the most about health professional school was the way that I had to accommodate my life around it and how my studying style was completely changed (for the better).
How did SHPEP influence you?
It provided the most crucial tools to excel as a pre-health student and now as a health profession student. Personally, SHPEP introduced me to the clinical field of pharmacy.
Do you remember your first day of graduate studies? What memory stands out the most?
The memory that stands out the most was the feeling of both nervousness and gratitude, and meeting my pharmacy school colleagues while acknowledging that I would not be alone through this journey.
What has been your favorite part of the process? What has been the most difficult?
My favorite part of the process has been creating new and meaningful memories through internship experiences, IPPEs (Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences), and sharing with my pharmacy school friends and mentors. The most difficult part of the process has been learning that failure is a normal part of my career; I am not always bound to succeed at every goal that I set for myself.
Did you have experiences or mentors that prepared you for a career as a health professional?
Yes, I did. Some of those mentors were Kiana Fields (coordinator of UofL SHPEP), Dr. Darlene Santiago (PI of my undergraduate senior year research project), Dr. Karen Martínez (PI of the first research project I participate in), and some friends who were already in the pharmacy field.
What is the best career advice you have received?
The career advice that has resonated with me most are:
- Remember why you started.
- Stay true to yourself.
- Make time for your physical and emotional health.
- Learn how to take in constructive feedback.
What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career?
Apply to all the scholarship, internship, research, or shadowing opportunities available even if you think that you will not get accepted or offered a position.
- Don’t be afraid to make questions.
- Stay empathic and open-minded.