“I started my own pharmacy with a friend in 1990. Now the pharmacy is 28 years old. And it has been 25 years since I graduated from NSU. People told me I did not need a Pharm.D. degree, but to have [a pharmacy school] so near to my house and my work, I said I should give myself the opportunity. It’s a very nice history because it was a great adventure.
“Around 1995 we heard about the new Pharm.D. that was going to be integrated into a school in Puerto Rico. We got together with other pharmacists around the area and invited Dr. Andres Malave and Dr. Hanbury to the second conversation. They fell in love with Ponce, and that’s why NSU started in Ponce.
“I always say that it was an adventure because everything was so new. And when I started my rotations in Miami, I had more adventures, and it was wonderful to have that in my life.
“It is important to know that in the history of Puerto Rico, when it was colonized by the Spaniards, the pharmacists came before the physician. So people here believe in pharmacy and they were more confident with a pharmacist than a physician. And the profession is still emerging. Medicare needs to be more in touch with patients. They need the pharmacists to be involved with different conditions and to help prevent hospitalizations and admissions to the emergency room. In general, the pharmacy is going to be one of the strongest pillars in the health professions in Puerto Rico.
“Pharmacy is not a common career, and it’s not easy. But a lot of friends have been trying to motivate their sons and daughters to study pharmacy. I belong to the baby boomers generation and we are almost near retirement. So we are looking for young people and trying to discover that spirit of entrepreneurship so they advance further into clinical pharmacy and nto being community pharmacists.
“What the program needs is more preceptors and more practice centers. Even though my pharmacy is small, we have helped train 60 students combined with another pharmacy close by. My Farmacia el Tuque is located in an isolated part of Ponce, but it is a very state-of-the-art facility. We have robots, good technology, and students have their own consulting area. From the first day of our month-long program, the students know what they are going to do, how many patients they are going to see, how many patients they are going to interview, or call. So they have to go out and give self-care information, test blood pressure, provide glucose monitoring, and other services.
“You have to be a humanitarian, especially in my position here because we are a poor community with a big population. So we urge students to get involved with people. And we go to activities during the year and serve as judges for the poster sessions so students can see us at the institution in addition to seeing us as preceptors in our pharmacies.
“In the end, students are prepared enough for the community pharmacists, which is much more than being a pharmacist dispenser. You are clinically trained, and you know how to help diversified people.
“Now that NSU is in the metro area, people recognize the institution with other eyes. We always wear the silver or gold shark, and I have a white coat with the embroidered [NSU College of Pharmacy insignia]. Once students finish, they love what they do and live it in heart, body, and mind. And they give back to the institution a little, too. I try and do what I can. I know how important it is for the students, and the faculty.”