Q&A with Tina Christi Lopez, PharmD, MSPhr, Director of the Drug Information Center at University of the Incarnate Word
Tina Christi Lopez is a pharmacist specializing in drug information at Feik School of Pharmacy at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. She earned a Doctor of Pharmacy in May 2001, an MS in Pharmacy in May 2003 and completed a Specialty Residency in Drug Information at the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio in June 2003, all through the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. At UIW, Tina precepts and teaches pharmacy students, collaborates with faculty and conducts research. One of her favorite parts of the job? Helping students reach that "ah-ha!" moment when they learn a new or complex concept.
Q: What motivated you to become a pharmacist?
A: I always loved science and was intrigued by medicine. In high school my chemistry teacher talked about how pharmacy was a great profession. That next summer I applied for a job as a pharmacy technician at an independent pharmacy. I enjoyed the work so much that I worked there for the next four summers, attended the University of Texas at Austin for pre-pharmacy coursework, and applied and was accepted to pharmacy school at UT Austin.
Q: Can you tell us about your job?
A: I work at University of the Incarnate Word, a private university with a focus on teaching and research. My role is Director of the Drug Information Center. We answer drug information questions to both healthcare professionals and consumers. We also maintain contract work with outside entities providing medication therapy management services or written drug information documents.
Q: What's it like working at UIW?
A: Great! I get to teach drug information, biostatistics and literature evaluation once a year to the pharmacy classes; I precept two to five pharmacy students every six weeks; I impact student admissions, continuing pharmacy education and faculty development throughout the year; I interact with faculty daily to improve and create new teaching methods; and I get to conduct research on how and what students/pharmacists/consumers use for drug information.
Q: When and how did you start at this university?
A: I started working at the University of the Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy in July 2008.
After completing a residency in drug information and a master's degree in pharmacy, I worked at the University of Utah Drug Information Service for three years, then at the University of Utah Redwood Anticoagulation Clinic for two years. I was ecstatic when I saw an opening for a drug information specialist back in my hometown of San Antonio.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as a pharmacist?
A: Using today as an example:
• Check e-mail—any pending/new drug questions, any academic issues to address (e.g. syllabus changes, test change request);
• Meet with P4 drug info students on rotations—progress report on drug questions and other assignments, topic discussion;
• Discuss journal club presentation questions and provide guidance for researching drug/disease information;
• Course development—edit/create courses; and
• Research drug information or other topics—literature searches.
• During the school year—teach courses (Drug Information, Biostatistics & Literature Evaluation, Review of New Drugs);
• University Committees—Admissions committee (Secretary), Continuing Pharmacy Education Committee (Chair), Library Committee;
• Maintain contract relationships;
• Conduct research in pharmacy, drug information, social/administrative pharmacy and academia;
• Write articles, keep up to date with changes in the profession, drug updates/warnings, advocate for the profession of pharmacy, organize health fairs;
• Community service—yes, this is also part of my job—to participate in community service activities and encourage students to do the same.
Q: What type of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
Q: Can you share a motivational story about working with a student?
A: I enjoy my job most when I see students experience the "ah-ha" moment and they understand a new or complex concept. One of the hardest things I get to teach students is the actual usefulness of drug information and literature evaluation. They are often too busy trying to learn and understand pharmacotherapeutics to conceptualize how they will need the information I teach. My continued inspiration comes as I see the students' attitudes change from the beginning to the end of the course to understand the importance of the topics. But the course evaluation comments solidify their transformation when they actually write it down:
"At first, I wasn't too excited about journal club but at the end I came to really appreciate it because I know that I am extremely prepared to give a journal club presentation if I had to. This is extremely important to know how to do especially on clinical rotations. Nothing is worse than having to do something and have no idea how to do it or where to start. Fortunately, we had a great professor that took the time to explain each part of the journal club paper, what everything meant and how to interpret the data we read in clinical trials."
"Even though the course material itself is not the most engaging, I felt that Dr. Lopez was able to teach us not only how to critically analyze various articles, but the importance of being able to do so."
Q: What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike most?
A: Best: interacting with students and helping them achieve their goals.
Worst: the few unmotivated people.
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as a pharmacist, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: I am always interested in expanding my pharmacy knowledge and improving how pharmacy/drug information is taught.
Q: Do you feel that the role of pharmacists has changed over recent years?
A: Yes and no. Pharmacists are continuing to move away from just dispensing, but are not getting the provider status needed to really play a role in direct patient care with physicians and nurses.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to pharmacists today?
A: Job market and healthcare reform.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching students get the "ah-ha" moment of understanding the material and seeing the big picture. Hearing about graduates' success.
Q: What is the most important thing you've learned over the course of your career?
A: Teaching takes practice; don't ever think you've got it down perfectly. Also, be ready to change with the transformations in the profession/technology/etc.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering academics?
A: Before pursuing a career in clinical pharmacy academia, practice pharmacy for a few years. Start slowly with teaching by precepting students, then teaching one or two lectures per semester at the local pharmacy school. After about three to five years of practicing, then look into open faculty positions.
Q: How has working in pharmacy education allowed you to grow professionally?
A: I get to learn continuously about all the drug info resources. I get to teach students yearly or every six weeks to frequently refresh my knowledge on several topics.
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Teach—because I get to teach and inspire students all day!
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