Aliya Abdulla always knew she wanted to help others and work in health care. Now a student in UGA’s Doctor of Pharmacy Program, she’s completing an externship at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. “Have you ever spent a day at work and look up at the time to see the day has flown by? That is how I feel every day I get to work in pharmacy,” she said.
Hometown: Tucker, Georgia
Degree objective: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Expected graduation: May 2022
Current employment: Pharmacy intern at Walgreens Pharmacy
What are your top UGA highlights?
First Football Game: Before attending UGA as a student, I had heard about the infamous football games. People had told me that it would be an unforgettable experience, and I didn’t take it too seriously. After all, it is just a football game, right? WRONG. Attending a University of Georgia football game is truly mesmerizing; there is nothing quite like it. To be a student, you feel this sense of community with others in the stands even if you have never met them. We all feel so passionately in our support for our school and our team. I believe that any student, football fan or not, can feel that aura when attending a game. The moment our team stepped out onto the green of Sanford Stadium during that first game, I was hooked. From the exhilarating feeling of scoring a touchdown to the goosebumps you get when it’s a night game in fourth quarter, there is nothing like it.
Leadershape: The Leadershape Institute is a six-day leadership building experience that I attended during my first few years at UGA. They hosted sessions that specialized in teamwork, individual time to self-reflect, and everything in between. Some of the most foundational aspects of my leadership style were built here. I met with influential student leaders from all over campus. Everyone was there to develop and create meaningful relationships with one another; it was there that I felt 100% valued as a student and a leader.
Pharmtoberfest: I’ve worked on the College of Pharmacy’s annual Pharmtoberfest Health Fair as first-year liaison, president-elect and president. This event took months of planning, countless hours of meeting and preparation, and tons of teamwork to come together. We offer flu shots, free blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, HIV and hepatitis C tests. To provide accessible health care and education to members of the University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County community was the most rewarding experience I have been a part of. Even with the pandemic, we were successfully able to transition our event online and reach hundreds of community members.
How did you decide to come to UGA?
Some sage advice from a former UGA student gave me a nudge in the right direction to come to UGA. After my freshman orientation, I knew immediately that I had made the best decision for me. I felt right at home. I felt seen. Since then, I have had a monumental experience these past six years transitioning from undergrad to the PharmD program. I have met some of the most influential individuals of my life here, and I would not be the person I am today without their support.
How did you choose your major?
Have you ever spent a day at work and look up at the time to see the day has flown by? That is how I feel every day I get to work in pharmacy. In my youth, I always had a sense that I needed to help others and that health care is how I wanted to do it. However, I came into UGA not knowing which direction to go in. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to work in an independent pharmacy early on and see the tremendous impact that was being made. We worked in a low socioeconomic status area, and many of our patients could not afford their medications. We did everything we could to ensure our patients got their medications. It was a sprint, not a jog, to make it happen, but the gratitude received was unforgettable. After researching the profession, I was introduced to the PharmD program at UGA and the diverse opportunities it provided. It was clear to me that this is where I wanted to be.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken?
My favorite class has to be Pharmacotherapy from my PharmD curriculum. This course is split into four different semesters and focuses on a variety of disease states. We are taught in a “flipped classroom” format where lectures are listened to ahead of time and the bulk of the class is spent in teams discussing the patient cases. This course not only builds your knowledge base but allows students to become better clinicians by working with their peers for a common goal. Often, we would come across cases that were difficult to approach. However, through open dialogue, we came up with possible solutions as a group. That foundation will assist in creating care plans for future patients. While this course was challenging, I feel as though it is fundamental to my success as a pharmacist going forward.
Where have you interned/what have you learned?
I have done pharmacy internships as introductory pharmacy practice experiences at
- St. Mary’s Athens.
- Mercy Health Center.
- Doctors Hospital.
I am currently an extern completing my advanced pharmacy practice experiences at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
Through these internships, I have learned how essential a role pharmacists play in all sectors of health care. Serving as an intern/extern has allowed me opportunities to work with patients directly and develop tangible and intangible skills such as developing patient care plans and communicating with other health care professionals. This role has laid the foundation for further development as a student pharmacist and soon as an actual pharmacist.
What has surprised you about UGA or defied your expectations?
I never could have dreamed to have so many doors opened, and opportunities come my way in the way they have. UGA has an extensive network of alumni, faculty and students that care deeply for each other and will go above and beyond to ensure they achieve success. I have seen this in the undergraduate and graduate forum. The wide student involvement network provided such a diverse list of ways to get involved that everyone could find something tailored to their needs.
It surprised me how limitless your dreams are here; I realized that once joining pharmacy school. The faculty at this institution are devoted to being lifelong mentors and truly get to know you as an individual to tailor to your success. Never once have I felt stuck while at UGA; there was always someone to talk to or another door to open. For that, I am eternally grateful. UGA is not only a place where you see change but often you are given the chance to create it.
What obstacles have you had to overcome?
Truly, the pandemic has been an obstacle we never predicted coming our way. As a learner who relies on face time and hands-on development, the transition to online classes was a significant change for me.
Serving as the chair of the College of Pharmacy Dean’s Student Advisory Council at the time, my role drastically changed as we had to fully redevelop what student involvement looked like in a mostly online format. By creating an open forum, student leaders shared creative ideas, and we learned how to be engaging online. By the end of the year, we created not only a memorable experience for members but also built a sustainable foundation for years to come. I have extreme pride in the work all the student leaders were able to accomplish and the impact we all created on our members, our college and our community.
How did you spend the pandemic?
I spent most of quarantine learning to paint using YouTube tutorials. Though I may not be good enough to display my paintings in a gallery, they do look nice in my home.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
Building leaders of tomorrow is my passion. I am a firm believer of mentorship as the foundation of a strong leader. I have been blessed with extraordinary mentors in the world of pharmacy, and I am committed to serving as one for future learners as my career progresses. Outside of pharmacy, I have worked with youth camps for almost 10 years. These roles have shown me how to navigate working with different ages, learn from a diverse team of peers, and how to selflessly work towards a common goal. I am committed to bettering myself however I can so that my experience and knowledge can be shared with others.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I hope to pursue a PGY1 (post graduate year 1) general pharmacy residency and go on to complete a PGY2 specialized pharmacy residency in critical care. Ultimately, I strive to become a faculty member at a college of pharmacy where I can build leaders of tomorrow and be able to fulfill my passion every day.
I #CommitTo: Leading selflessly, fearlessly and openly.