Jeff-1Ask ten pharmacists why they do what they do, and you will get at least ten different answers. What you won’t hear is “I like to count by 5’s” or “I want to stand behind a counter and look down on people.” This recurring blog feature shines a light on what really motivates pharmacists and pharmacy residents.

Profile #1: Jeff Kintner, Pharmacy Resident, PharmD

Q: How did you develop an interest in healthcare and pharmacy?

A: During my undergraduate years I always knew that I wanted to work in healthcare and it seemed I was destined for this field. I was majoring in biochemistry at the time and found that I really enjoyed the fusion of anatomy with chemistry where physiological processes can be analyzed into minutia at the molecular level. At first, it seemed appropriate that when deciding which vocation to choose, the best option would be to follow in the footsteps of family members and either go to medical school or dental school. At least, that was my plan until my junior year.

Q: What convinced you to abandon medical or dental school and attend Pharmacy school?

One autumn evening I received a frantic call from my parents explaining that they were en route to Seattle Children’s Hospital (a two-and-a-half hour drive) and that my 16-year old sister had just been diagnosed with cancer. In the days that followed we learned that my sister had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood, and would need to begin chemotherapy immediately.

If you’ve ever had a loved one go through chemotherapy then you know that oftentimes cancer treatments are worse than the cancer itself. The side effects of these toxic, yet necessary medications are life-altering to say the least. But what can be even more frightening is not knowing what you are up against. It was during my visits to Seattle to visit my sister in the hospital when I discovered my passion for pharmacy. The pharmacists explained every aspect of my sister’s drug therapy from how the chemotherapy would eradicate the cancerous cells to the process by which her nausea would be controlled.

Most importantly, they discussed the likely side effects of these medications, what the hospital staff would do to prevent them, and what she could do to avoid/lessen their impact. It is never easy informing a teenage girl that she will lose her hair, but the pharmacists here did it with poise and delicacy. The counseling from these pharmacists was so valuable and took the element of mystery out of the treatments – it put everything on the table.

Before this, I had never really known what a pharmacist did, but the respect I had for pharmacists grew tremendously after this experience. I knew immediately that this is what I should be doing as a career. The ability to improve someone’s life, health, and wellness by making them more confident and comfortable with their medications is a skill that requires as much art as science– it is why I became a pharmacist.