Pharm.D. and M.B.A. Student Offers Testimonial at NSU's Big Thank You

Yana Yorontsova speaks about why she chose to pursue her Pharm.D. and M.B.A. at NSUGood afternoon NSU friends, faculty, staff and fellow students. My name is Yana Vorontsova and I am a Doctor of Pharmacy and M.B.A. student. Some of you are probably guessing now where my accent is from. Those of you who are thinking Russia are correct. To be more precise – I was born in Siberia, in a very small rural village in the south of Siberia.

I was growing up in a post-Soviet Russia; it was a very difficult time. Our family, just like many others, survived off what was growing in the backyard, preserved for the winter, and kept in the barn. My mom and grandma, sewed and knitted sweaters, socks, and what’s not, for the family.

I dreamed of a different, a better life. So, when I was 15, I went to the boarding high school in the city which was over 200 miles from home.

After graduating the high school, I was admitted to the University majoring in English and Education. At the university, we were encouraged to travel, as this was the only true way to learn and practice a foreign language and to experience a foreign culture. Although the notion was very scary at the time, today, I am happy that I overcame my fears because I live in a free country full of opportunities. Not a day passed by without me realizing how blessed I am to be a U.S. citizen.

Since I was little, I loved biology and medicine. While, I was not free to pursue that career in Russia, here I could. So, while in Chicago I started working on the prerequisites for a pharmacy school. After fulfilling these, I was accepted to every pharmacy school I applied to. But only two schools met my own requirements: University of Illinois in Chicago (which was my goal all along) and Nova Southeastern University. My friends and acquaintances said “how can you even think? Of course, University of Illinois. It’s the 2nd oldest pharmacy school and one of the top-rated in the country!” But after visiting the school and interviewing there, it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel the same as NSU. Here we received so much support and encouragement from the admission counselors and the current students, it felt like they were a family. And I wanted to be a part of that family. All our questions were answered. Admission counselors spoke with every prospective student individually. And the campus felt so safe. So, I chose NSU and moved to Fort Lauderdale.

During my first year I started working with Dr. Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji as a research assistant on epinephrine sublingual tablets. These innovative tablets serve as an alternative for the EpiPen® – an auto-injector treatment for people with life-threatening allergic reactions. Utilizing nanotechnology to create medicine was something I wanted to be involved in before I even started the pharmacy school. But it wasn’t the only interest I wanted to pursue. After I finished the first year of pharmacy school I took on MBA with the concentration in business analytics. Although I knew this concentration would not be easy for me, I chose it because it will allow me to apply data-driven decisions to healthcare which helps to save money, improve patient care, and identify the best treatments.

My second year at Nova I was on a team with other three students who presented at the American College of Clinical Pharmacy Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Later, I also had the chance to present at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in Denver due to our work on the epinephrine sublingual tablets. This is one of the biggest pharmaceutical conferences in the world, and the majority of the attendees are Ph.D.s, Ph.D. students and representatives from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Although I felt a little shy in such company, I also felt extremely proud to be a second-year Pharm.D. student there to represent NSU.

As a member of the Strategic Forum Student Group in the Business School, I also went to a conference at the Harvard Business School. I cannot express enough how valuable these experiences are for students, and I was so proud to give my NSU business card and say that I am a PharmD and MBA student from Nova Southeastern University.

I also belong to the Public Health Student Association which is probably the only inter-disciplinary club at the moment that includes students from medical, pharmacy, nursing and other NSU healthcare schools. We participate in community health fairs and many other volunteering events.

A colleague and I are also currently working on starting a pharmaceutical industry student club.

Since my MBA concentration is through the College of Engineering and Computing, I belong to three colleges. It gives me an abundance of opportunities to collaborate, share and combine knowledge that hopefully will one day turn into something exceptional.

I want to contribute to make NSU known across the country for its excellence in education, for the research, and all the opportunities it gives to the students.

In closing, I want to say that the challenge for NSU students is not finding the drive to succeed, but rather the resources that allow us to stay focused on studying. As an immigrant with no Florida prepaid plan, being here on my own, all I can count on are student loans and scholarships. And because I am a graduate student, loans are the main resource. 

Luckily, we can have covered one conference per year, but the rest is out of pocket.  I also worry about my old car breaking and things like that are when the scholarship is not just an extra, it is a necessity. But most importantly, a scholarship offers recognition for our efforts. It is hugely motivating because a scholarship award lets us know that our hard work and involvement is noticed and appreciated.

On behalf of all NSU students, I want to thank you for donating to scholarships. Every little bit helps, not just to offset tuition, but to buy extra books and study material, replace an old laptop, and to lessen some of our worries. And for those of you who choose to provide scholarships or research assistantships to graduate students, I must add a special note of appreciation as these are very rare gifts that mean the world to us.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.