Advice, Current Students, General Interest

How I Found a Job After Graduation #3: Emma Kim

This four-part series features stories from our alumni about how they found employment after graduation, along with advice from the pros at the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers.

Image credit: Hover Collective

Here’s how Emma Kim, BSc(Pharm)’15, found her first job after graduation.

What was your first job after graduating from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences?
I work as a community pharmacist for an independent group with pharmacies in West Kelowna and Keremeos. My daily tasks include dispensary and clinical work (vaccinations, travel consults, lung clinics, medication reviews). I also spend time promoting public education and community outreach initiatives (including prescribers and patients).

Tell us how you found employment after graduating.
Due my previous training in genetics research, I was heavily involved in UBC/BCPhA’s pharmacogenomics research. While a pharmacy student at UBC, I was also the lab rat extracting/testing DNA from saliva! I also helped to train pharmacists in the BC Interior health region on this clinical study and that’s how I met the pharmacy team that I work with today. I have received many offers but I like my practice now because our team focuses on what I care about –  community involvement and clinical services.

Do you have any advice about finding employment for students who are about to graduate?
Find out what you want out of your career. Do you want to focus on business development? Clinical services? Academics? Teaching?

Do more than schooling and start early! Aim to get to know people in the specialty area you want to pursue. Ask them for a coffee break, job shadowing, etc.

Involvement with BCPhA, CPhA, research projects and collaboration projects are also great. Attend conferences to build connections. All the neat experiences I came across happened through networking and extra projects. They say the best job is not posted and it’s true!

While being a student, try to work for many different types of employers e.g. many corporate/independents for community based pharmacies. Weigh the pros and cons as a student through work/clerkship so that you find out what kind of you want when you graduate.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get your dream job right away. But keep investing in yourself with extra training and qualifications and keep talking to people. If you don’t get your dream job after all this, create one for yourself!

Read our previous interviews with Brett Chiasson and Moh Kazem. Interview by Karie Hanson.

Advice, Current Students, General Interest, Life at UBC Pharm Sci, Prospective Students

Rethinking Your Approach to Learning: How I Study in Pharmacy School

Disclaimer: The opinions in the following article are my own. I do not speak on behalf of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 

UBC Pharm Sci students

So, you made it into pharmacy school. You’re looking at an exciting four years that will help to shape you into the best pharmacist you can be. I remember starting my first year at UBC Pharm Sci feeling the way many others do: ambitious and passionate to learn.

Despite being a good student with a positive attitude, I realized over time that I needed to change my approach to learning if I were to be successful in this faculty. More importantly, I needed to make those changes if I wanted to be a competent pharmacist.

If I had to summarize how my studying mindset needed to change, it would be this: I had to realize that I am not only studying for exams – I am studying to become a competent practitioner. Though that statement may sound obvious, it summarizes the mindset that pharmacy students need to adopt to be successful in their careers.

Now, of course you need to pass your exams and aim for good grades. But if you only study with the question “What do I need to know for the test?” in mind, then you don’t allow yourself to be curious, and curiosity is key to learning.

To put this in context: an instructor may tell you that a complication of untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) is the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD). When studying for your exam, don’t just memorize this fact; ask yourself “why?” and look up the pathophysiological mechanisms that explain how high blood pressure can result in CKD — even if it wasn’t covered in class.

Asking yourself questions while studying, particularly those not answered in class, and finding answers to these questions has the benefit of solidifying your learning. You can imagine that most patients won’t be happy with “I didn’t learn about that in school” as an answer to their questions. And beyond that, it trains you to develop the skills that you will need as a future clinician. No pharmacist (or any other health care practitioner for that matter) can have all the answers to everything. Continued education is important for any clinician and, if you make a habit of self-studying while in school, self-studying outside of school where you no longer have the benefit of instructors guiding you becomes a lot easier. Furthermore, asking questions is fundamental to skepticism and, as clinicians working in a science driven, evidence-based practice, it’s important that you be a skeptic when appraising the literature on drug therapies to accurately assess their safety and effectiveness.

Furthermore, by asking questions and really engaging with the study materials, you will train yourself to think critically. Critical thinking is a key skill for all pharmacists. The ability to take in information, consider all angles, make an assessment, and then decide (with your patient’s personal values in mind) on a course of action is all part of the clinical decision making process.

If you’re reading this as a prospective student and feeling intimidated – don’t be! You will be in the right environment to develop this new mindset and foster your new skills. You have four years to practice, and experienced instructors to help guide you along. All that’s needed from you is the willingness to be curious, to be a skeptic, and to not forget what it is that you’re really studying for.

So next time you’re studying, ask yourself this: “Do I feel competent enough to manage and treat patients with this condition?”

You owe it to yourself and your future patients to become the best pharmacist that you can be.

— John Groumoutis

John is a third year student in the Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy program. John is a member of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, and is an advocate for clinical pharmacy. Beyond pharmacy, John is interested in philosophy. In his spare time he enjoys reading or watching science fiction, and boxing.

Current Students, General Interest, Life at UBC Pharm Sci

“What’s in your bag?” Pharmacy Student Edition

UBC Pharm Sci Student Ambassadors

UBC Pharm Sci Student Ambassadors

There’s no doubt that our pharmacy students spend a lot of time on campus, often relying on what’s packed in their bag to help them get through the day. We asked our Pharm Sci student ambassadors: what’s in your bag that you can’t go a day without? Here’s what they had to say:

Lisa: “Fingerless gloves are a staple for me during the winter months. They’re extremely useful when you require the finger dexterity to type notes or use a touch screen. Also, instant coffee or tea bags provide that caffeine boost necessary to stay awake at a Monday morning lecture or a late night studying session. As the weather gets gloomier, it’s more convenient to come prepared so that I don’t have to trek outdoors in search of a hot drink.”

John: “I can’t go without my copy of the RxFiles. It’s an extremely handy resource that allows you to look up the treatments and management of disease states in a pinch. It provides tons of information in a compact manner, and even provides evidence and citations from major randomized controlled trials.”

Melina: “The two things I can’t live without in my school bag are my lip balm and calendar. I really can’t stand dry lips because it’s so uncomfortable and just drives me nuts. My calendar basically has my life in it. I have all my exams, meetings, events and appointments in there.”

Alex: “Napkins. When it comes to eating I’m a bit of a slob, so having a few close-by during lectures really pays off. Whether it be for wiping spills or a runny nose, napkins are essential. Also, Fluxx. It’s a small card game I pull out whenever I have a break between classes. It’s a fun game with rules that keep changing. Somehow, I find peace within this chaotic game.”

Questions for our student ambassadors? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.


Advice, Current Students, General Interest, Life at UBC Pharm Sci

Practical Advice for Perfectionists: Creating a Healthier Work Ethic

Happy New Year everyone! It’s time to focus on your studies again. Rather than talking about setting a New Year’s goal, I would like to talk to students who have a habit of setting sky high goals, and are continually adding to the long list of achievements they would like to accomplish.

Students in IKB

Students in the UBC Irving K Barber Learning Centre. Image credit: Martin Dee / UBC Communications & Marketing.

This blog post is for students that fall into the perfectionist category, and chances are you can identify if you fall into that category even a little. I spoke with Rachel Vella-Zarb and Alex Daros from UBC Counselling Services to find out more about perfectionism and how we can move towards a healthier work ethic.

What are some characteristics or habits of a perfectionist?
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all evaluate how worthwhile we think we are as person based on some kind of personal evaluation system. We may think we are a worthwhile person if we are kind or helpful, we may think we are worthwhile if we are attractive or thin, we may think we are worthwhile if we have a good job or make a significant amount of money.

In perfectionism, self-worth is based largely on achievement or performance. Perfectionism involves setting excessively high personal standards and striving to meet them at all costs. Along with these high standards, perfectionists often don’t take into account that setbacks and mistakes are normal and a part of learning. They may also have difficulty when emotions and motivation fluctuate. When standards are not met, perfectionists become highly self-critical. This then pushes them to set even higher standards or avoid trying entirely. When standards are (temporarily) met, perfectionists often experience minimal satisfaction from these achievements. Instead, meeting their goal is often dismissed as meaning the goal was “too easy,” and higher standards are then set.

What are some characteristics or habits of someone with a healthy work ethic?
When it comes to a “healthy pursuit of excellence” as opposed to perfectionism, self-worth is based on several different factors, not just performance. For example, achievement may be very important to someone but it may also important to them to be a good sister, friend, or daughter. When high standards are set, they are high but not objectively excessively high.

If standards are met, that person takes pride and satisfaction in this accomplishment by celebrating their success. If standards are not met, the person considers what went wrong and revises their goals or problem solves for next time. A healthy mindset means accepting that mistakes and even failures are possible and we can learn from these moments. A healthy work ethic means aiming for “very good,” not flawless. It also means distributing time and energy across different areas of importance, not putting it all into work. It involves recognizing that it’s normal for emotions to fluctuate and it is important to take care of oneself during stressful times.

What are some reasons a person may be a perfectionist?
Some people are more perfectionistic than others for a variety of reasons. It may be in part due to genetics, and in part due to learning from others (e.g., parents, teachers, siblings). Many people who are perfectionistic have been rewarded for their efforts and achievements and therefore place emphasis on this area of their life. They may have learned to set high goals and work towards them but find that over time, their standards become higher and higher and self-criticism becomes more and more demanding to the point where it is not helpful and instead causes problems. Over time, perfectionism is maintained by rigid standards, emphasis on achievement, discounting successes, overemphasizing setbacks, and frequent negative self-evaluation and self-criticism.

How can we move from perfectionism to a more healthy work ethic?
Perfectionists are often reluctant to make changes because they fear “lowering their standards.” Changing perfectionism is not about lowering standards, but rather it is about considering ways that achievement can be better met and considering whether it’s helpful to base self-worth so heavily on achievement. Many people believe that the harder you work, the better you do; actually, research indicates that that with too much effort, performance tails off or doesn’t get incrementally better.

People who want to adjust their perfectionistic behaviours may want to work on two main areas: (1) their thoughts or self-talk and (2) their behaviours. From a cognitive perspective, you can begin by talking to yourself as if you were a good coach. A good coach doesn’t offer constant criticism or set higher and higher goals, rather a good coach offers positive feedback and constructive suggestions. When you catch yourself setting high standards or evaluating yourself negatively, you can ask “are these expectations reasonable given the circumstances?” “what are the costs and benefits of pursuing this goal in this way?” and “what would I say to someone I was mentoring or coaching if they felt this way?”

Another strategy is to be mindful of what’s going well in your life, as perfectionists often tend to discount successes. One way to challenge this attitude is to keep track of three good things per day (big or small). Keep these good things recorded on a piece of paper and continue to follow-up by adding new things each day. This can become a good motivational piece when displayed in your office or where you study.

From a behavioural perspective, you can begin to look at some of the behaviours that maintain perfectionism, for example over-preparing, re-reading, repeated checking, or excessive planning. Once you’ve identified these areas, you can try some behavioural experiments where you work for one week at your current level of effort, and then one week at 80% effort, and compare the outcomes. For example, if you notice that you tend to re-read emails at least three times to scan them for errors before sending them, try doing this for one week and record the outcomes (i.e., how many mistakes you make that others notice and how many mistakes you make that have significant outcomes). Then spend the next week re-reading emails once and note the same outcomes. Figuring out how to cut back time spent on lower priority tasks is an important part of being efficient.

For some additional work on perfectionism, check out the following book recommendations:

Antony, M.M., & Swinson, R. (2009). When perfect isn’t good enough: Strategies for coping with perfectionism (2nd edition). New Harbinger Publications.

Ben-Shahar, T. (2010). Being happy: you don’t have to be perfect to lead a richer, happier life. McGraw-Hill.


If this blog post resonates with you, why not give some of these suggestions a try this year! After reading through Rachel and Alex’s advice, I think it would be helpful to write down your thought patterns about grades and studying, and also write down what your goals are in school and extracurricular involvement. Once you’ve written your goals and thought patterns, you can experiment with what a reasonable goal could be. You can also identify your common thought patterns, making it easier to see them creep up while studying.

What would happen if you studied and worked on assignments without the sky-high goals? Experimenting with ways to move into a healthier work ethic can help you in your studying, career, and personal life for years to come.

Wishing you all ease and happiness in 2017!

Karie Hanson. Karie is the Program Advisor and Manager for the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is originally from Sherwood Park, Alberta, and graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation, Sport and Tourism. Outside of work, Karie enjoys playing baseball, basketball, walking the seawall, and volunteering with older adults.

If you feel that you need some additional support and would like to speak with a counsellor, you can visit UBC Counselling Services during their drop-in hours to meet with a Wellness Advisor. There are two Counselling Services locations on campus, and you can find their contact information, drop-in hours, and general information here.

Current Students, General Interest, Interviews, Life at UBC Pharm Sci, Prospective Students

UBC Pharm Sci Student Talks: Episode 4, feat. Alex Assumption

We’re bringing back our Student Talks video series!

Last month we sat down for a chat with first-year Entry-to-Practice PharmD student, Alex Assumption, to learn more about his experiences with the program to date.

Previous Episodes:

Episode 1, feat. Aaron Sihota
Episode 2, feat. Renee Dagenais
Episode 3, feat. Joshua Quisias

Interested in joining us here at UBC Pharm Sci? Learn more about our programs.

Current Students, General Interest, Prospective Students

Discovering the Origins of and Meaning Behind the White Coat

Our Director of Communications & Marketing, Jimi Galvão, was curious to learn more about why pharmacists wear white coats. He set out to learn more about the origins of and meaning behind the white coat. Here’s what he learned…

Students at the 2004 White Coat Ceremony.

Students at the 2004 White Coat Ceremony.

Each year, the Faculty celebrates incoming classes with an event that centres on an important article of clothing for pharmacists and health care professionals the world over: the white coat.

The White Coat Ceremony is an event that brings first year students together to take part in the recital of and reflection on the Faculty’s Pledge of Professionalism, an oath that outlines core values and commitments expected of each pharmacy student relating to patient care and ethical practice. White coats are presented to the students before they recite the pledge, and the act of receiving one symbolizes their acceptance into the ranks of not only the Faculty but the profession of pharmacy as a whole.

Having been with the Faculty for almost five years now, I’ve had the pleasure of being present at many of these ceremonies. And it’s always great to see the pride beaming from the faces of our students and their families. But something struck me as I started thinking about this year’s event. I knew very little about the origins of and meaning behind white coats. When were they first worn? Why are they white and not another colour? Did doctors wear them first? My curiosity sent me on a quest to learn more.

Students receiving white coats at the 2005 White Coat Ceremony.

Students receiving white coats at the 2005 White Coat Ceremony.


When I Googled “white coat” I was amazed at how many hits appeared (more than 58 million). And almost as many hits (more than 52 million) appeared when I searched for “history of the white coat.” In general, the white coat originated in the field of medicine and didn’t turn up until the late 1800s. Before being worn by doctors, white coats weren’t white at all. They were beige and covered the arms and torsos of scientists working in labs. When physicians adopted them as part of their professional attire, they were black. According to Andre Picard, author of “Why do physicians wear white lab coats?,” physicians “dressed in black to reflect the sombre nature of their work.” Dr. Mark S. Hochberg, author of “The Doctor’s White Coat–an Historical Perspective,” offers another possibility. He explains that “until the late 19th century seeking medical advice was usually a last resort and frequently a precursor to death.”

Black was replaced in the late 19th century when physicians began incorporating science into their practice, which resulted in advances in the efficacy and reputation of medicine overall. The changes brought about the demise of hospitals being associated with death and despair as recovery rates for patients increased. The revolutionary new direction for medicine called for a new look and the colour white, with its various positive meanings and connotations, was chosen for that look.

Students on stage at the Chan Centre receiving their white coats at the 2012 White Coat Ceremony.

Students on stage at the Chan Centre receiving their white coats at the 2012 White Coat Ceremony.


White has many meanings, but several key connotations include purity, cleanliness, light, hope, safety and goodness. Valerie A. Jones, author of “The White Coat: Why not Follow Suit?,” adds that the colour white also “symbolizes seriousness of purpose” and explains that the white coat “serves as a symbolic barrier that maintains the professional distance between physician and patient.” Jones goes on to say that it is “a cloak of compassion.”

Aside from deep philosophical meanings, I encountered a few practical applications as well. The author of “White Coat Ceremony: Origins and Meaning of the Clinician’s Uniform” explains that white doesn’t “fade when washed at high (germ-killing) temperatures.” White also allows for the quick spotting of stains.

Student receiving white coat at 2015 White Coat Ceremony.

Student receiving white coat at 2015 White Coat Ceremony.


And so, the newly envisioned white coat was adopted in the medical community as accepted professional attire. Surgeons were among the first to wear them. Then came physicians practicing in hospitals, followed by GPs. By the year 1915, the wearing of white coats was wide spread, with most pharmacists wearing them by the late 1950s.

Today, white coats continue to be worn but there is much debate as to whether or not they should be. Picard writes that “one in eight doctors now wears a white lab coat, according to a U.S. study” and that “one of the reasons physicians have abandoned the traditional garb is that they feel the visual symbol of hierarchy impedes patient care.” He also points to the cost of having white coats cleaned (hospitals used to launder them for free but now only offer this service for scrubs) and the appropriateness of white coats in teamwork environments as other reasons.

At the Faculty’s Pharmacists Clinic, white coats are not worn. “Our clinicians wear name tags but not lab coats to demonstrate our view that a consultation between a pharmacist and patient is a meeting of experts,” says Barbara Gobis, director of the Pharmacists Clinic. “The pharmacist has expert knowledge about drug therapies and the patient is the expert on their own beliefs, values, daily routines and behaviours.”

All that being said, white coats are not totally unwelcome. According to Picard, “surveys show that the majority of patients like the white coat, largely because it helps them figure out who’s who, something that is impossible where every health worker wears scrubs or street clothes.”

So what does the future hold for the white coat? It’s unclear, at best, but for the time being the white coat is an extremely important part of what our students experience at UBC Pharm Sci. And there’s far more to the history of white coats and how they’re perceived today than my allotted word count will allow. To learn more, I strongly encourage you to read the following articles that I referenced and do some Googling of your own. – Jimi Galvão

Why do physicians wear white lab coats?
Andre Picard

The Doctor’s White Coat–an Historical Perspective
Mark S. Hochberg, MD

The White Coat: Why not Follow Suit?
Valerie A. Jones

White Coat Ceremony: Origins and Meaning of the Clinician’s Uniform

What should pharmacists wear?
Lin-Nam Wang

Keep an eye out for the next issue of Discover, coming soon! Are you subscribed to our publications?