My Journey to a Pharm.D.

On May 21, 2016, Danielle Beltz, Pharm.D., was one of 210 NEOMED graduates to join the next generation of physicians, pharmacists and medical researchers. Dr. Beltz was selected by her classmates as the winner of the Bowl of Hygeia Award—a national program established to recognize the highest level of community service. The class recognized Dr. Beltz as the person they would most want as their own personal pharmacist. Dr. Beltz was honored for her intellectual and clinical skills; her empathy and patient rapport; her diligence; and her support of her peers. The following is edited from the remarks Dr. Beltz made to her classmates when accepting the Bowl of Hygeia Award.

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I spent my weekends and summers working at my parents’ community pharmacy in Springfield. I would dust shelves, sweep the sidewalk, and occasionally try my hand at filling out my father’s pharmacist continuing education credit just for fun.

Our pharmacy was small and my father had the chance to get to know the people as he filled their prescriptions. I saw how they trusted him, and I loved to see the same people come in again and again, and to hear them laugh with my father. He was always on their side, calling insurance or doctors on their behalf. Whatever the situation was, he was looking out for them. It was inspiring for me to witness. 

I always loved science, and particularly chemistry. As my husband and I began our own family and set down roots, pharmacy school was always in the back of my mind. But at that time, there was no pharmacy school in Northeast Ohio.

When I read the announcement that NEOMED was adding a school of pharmacy, I made plans to apply as soon as my youngest child started kindergarten. This was truly a family effort. From early mornings spent studying while everyone was asleep, to forgone vacations. I think all three of my children would say that I definitely owe them both a puppy and a vacation this year.

I have seen how my classmates and I have all grown over the last four years. I have seen our confidence build and our patient interactions become more influential and more effective. Each and every one of my classmates has taught me something.

There is something else important that I have learned through talking with students from other schools on rotation: Our class is not like any other class, whether here at NEOMED or at other schools of pharmacy. Our class is truly different in terms of the sharing and camaraderie with classwork. We have supported and helped each other at a level almost unheard of at other schools.

I figured out something else during pharmacy school: I actually love Millennials. I have been really inspired by the idealism and sense of purpose exhibited by my younger classmates– both in terms of advocacy for our profession, as well as advocacy for our patients.

Let’s not limit ourselves to only caring about our own practice area of pharmacy. I want to challenge each of my classmates to continue to be involved in advocacy for our profession as well as pharmacy organizations. Who better than the community of pharmacists to deliver health care to patients that don’t readily have access to care, but can get to their local pharmacy?

Direct patient care at the community pharmacy level is coming and I believe we are ready for it. We have been trained for it well at NEOMED. Hospital pharmacists are providing direct care as well. My hope is that pharmacists in all practice settings can stand together to promote provider status in the interest of partnering with patients in their own care.

As I reflect on the past four years, I can see that NEOMED has shaped me, both personally and professionally. Someone said that I may never again be as passionate about the pharmacy profession as I am today. I don’t agree. I see so many of our faculty who are fully invested in our profession, and that inspires me greatly.

I am from Generation X. As a whole, Gen Xers have the reputation for complacency, but I see a lot that can be gained by tapping into the idealism and sense of purpose in all of my classmates. I feel very fortunate to have gone through school with them.

A New Era

The pharmaceutical profession is on the verge of a transformation. Our graduating class is entering an era where hard work, training and treatment knowledge will be fully utilized to fill gaps in a health care system that must change in order to sustain itself.

I am excited to see how our class will help impact the future of health care. We have value to patients. We can change their lives for the better. Our investment in patients and perceived partnership with them IS our true super power. We should use it wisely.

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