"Grandpa, I don't want to eat the
rice. I hate it." Then a miracle occurred: My grandfather took this ordinary
bowl of rice and made it into a culinary masterpiece. He achieved this
artistry by simply sprinkling a little sugar on top of the rice. Suddenly that
plain, tasteless rice was transformed in my mouth like a pleasant dream.
Awaking with a feeling of happiness but wondering if this happiness could be
real, I savored every bite of that rice. I immediately asked, "Grandpa, can I
eat this every day?" My grandfather quickly denied my request, but nonetheless
he taught me something special about life that day. It is the little extra in
life that turns ordinary into extraordinary. From that day on, I knew I wanted
to be a chef.
So there I was, standing in
front of the mirror, staring at my white chef's coat, the joy I'd felt while
eating that bowl of sugared rice still lingering in my heart. That was the
same joy I wanted to share with others. The magic of creating a dish with my
own hands that could bring a smile to someone's face was something I looked
forward to and could not wait to do. When I walked out that door and through
that kitchen door, I would be making people smile. I would be creating for
others the same fond memories I held in my own heart.
They have a saying in the
hospitality industry: You hit the door running. You have a table of 10
ordering five steaks, one salmon, two cod, and two filets. Ten orders for one
table with different cooking times, and you have to get them all ready at once
because no one wants to be the last one waiting for their food while everyone
else is already halfway done. And who wants to be the first one served,
waiting for everyone else to get their food, only to have their own food get
cold? Did I mention that this is only one of 15 other tables ordering food at
the same time? Everyone wants to eat their dinner at seven o'clock. People
ordered their food 25 minutes ago; if you take any longer, some customers may
leave. Reputations are on the line, yours included, so you'd better hustle!
The owner is yelling at you in a foreign language that sounds like a mix of
Italian and Spanish. His customers are growing antsy. Someone drops a plate.
The owner explodes. Profanity is thrown into your ears. The sauce on the stove
is about to burn--you'd better check it. Who wants to eat dinner an hour and a
half later? You have mouths to feed. Knives are everywhere; hot stoves are
burning. The pressure is high, and the owner is ready to throw butter knives
at anyone who dares to prepare a meal that is anything less than perfect. This
was my world.
The on-the-job stress was
nothing to me. Why shouldn't the owner demand the best for his customers? I
became a chef to make those people smile. I became a chef to give every one of
those customers a fine dining experience. I was making crisp, sugary creme
brulee crusts ready to be cracked into, exposing their lovely soft cream
flecked with raspberries. Lava cakes hiding warm, sweet chocolate inside were
emerging from my hands. Light, refreshing basil sorbets awaited for those
quick business lunches. I was helping to finish the perfect meal with the
perfect dessert. I was living my dream.
It all changed one day when I
got a phone call from home. My grandfather's health was failing. My mother had
become diabetic. I was lost. The thing I knew best was making desserts, and a
cake was not going to cure my mother's diabetes or improve my grandfather's
health. I saw things completely differently that day. Those joyful moments in
my heart of sugar-sprinkled rice became bittersweet memories of a past life. I
saw that some people could not eat sugar because of diabetes. I noticed that
some people could not eat meat for fear of gout. These people were my family.
I realized there was no point in using food to make people smile if they were
not healthy enough to eat it. How could I walk through that kitchen door again
when I knew that these people needed more than just something to eat? They
needed to feel well again, to be whole again.
I closed the kitchen door, and
I went back to school. I began working at a pharmacy. I saw how the pharmacist
was able to help people with their daily needs and concerns, people like my
own family. I knew then that I wanted to be a pharmacist, someone who can help
people feel well again.
I finished my prerequisites at
a local community college, and on the recommendation of a professor I highly
admired, I applied to her alma mater: the University of Oklahoma. As fate
would have it, the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy gave me a
chance. It opened the door toward my future career as a pharmacist.
Things are different now.
Unfortunately, mastering the butchering of a 10-pound salmon does not
translate to a mastery of biochemistry. The transition from the culinary arts
to the sciences is not easy. Vast amounts of information blaze through my mind
in short periods of time. Chefs train by cutting, cooking, and tasting
repeatedly. As a P1 student, I train by writing notes, reviewing lecture
videos, and highlighting passages. It is hard to break down and cut up
everything into comprehensible pieces of information, but it also is
rewarding. Each new piece of information I digest leads to new doors opening
for me to help people. Pharmacy organizations for every possible area of
pharmacy I could imagine and areas I never knew existed are there, ready for
students to jump in and get involved. The university works hard not only to be
active in the community, but to help each and every student reach their
potential as a future pharmacist.
And as different as the
culinary arts are from pharmacy, there are many similarities between them. As
a chef, you experience the stress of customers demanding that they get their
fine dining experience. They want their food prepared as soon as possible
without sacrificing its quality or safety. You, yourself, want to uphold this
standard. You want your customers to get that fine dining experience. You try
to prepare the food as soon as possible, but you never sacrifice quality or
safety. The customer's satisfaction is your priority. As a chef, you search
for just the right ingredients to give your customers that fine dining
experience. You locate these ingredients at supermarkets, farmers' markets,
wholesalers, and anywhere else you can find them. You search through all of
your knowledge and apply it in any way possible to bring that fine dining
experience to your customers.
Being a pharmacy intern is not
much different. As a pharmacy intern, you experience the stress of patients
demanding that they get back their sense of well-being. They want to feel well
again as soon as possible without sacrificing quality of care or safety. You,
yourself, want to uphold this trust. You want your patients to be healthy
again or to stay healthy. You try to make them feel well as soon as possible,
but you never sacrifice their quality of care or safety. The patient's welfare
is your priority. As a pharmacy intern, you search for the right ingredients
to restore your patients' well-being, only this time your ingredients are
facts and knowledge. You locate these ingredients at your pharmacy school,
DrugFacts.com, AHFS Drug Information, and anywhere else you can find
them. You search through all your knowledge and apply it to the needs of your
patients to bring that sense of well-being back to them.
So once again I am standing in
front of the mirror, looking at my new white coat. My white pharmacist's coat
feels heavier on my shoulders. It carries with it a greater responsibility--not
just the appetites of customers, but the hearts, bodies, minds, and souls of
the patients in my care. It includes the additional responsibility to maintain
the trust people have in health care professionals across the nation. This is
the extra responsibility all P1 students uphold, and will continue to uphold
as they head out the door toward their careers as extraordinary pharmacists.
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