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Pharmacy Alumni Offer Students Real World Insight into Future Careers

Monday, May 20, 2013

One of the most unique aspects of the St. John’s University experience is the willingness of successful graduates to personally share their experiences and expertise with current students.

For the alumni of St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, mentorship takes on a special significance for those who participate in the popular Lunch with a Leader program.

The series began during the Fall 2006 semester. The first program featured a panel of Pharmacy alumnae discussing before a student audience where their careers had taken them after graduation. It has since evolved into a twice-yearly event with alumni speaking about a variety of topics, including current political and economic trends impacting pharmacists, the importance of field experience for students prior to their graduation and the alternative careers available to new graduates.

“Our alumni are very valuable, and they serve us in so many ways,” noted S. William Zito, Ph.D. ’66P, Acting Dean of St. John’s College and Health Sciences. “They have gone out, seen the profession, and become leaders in the profession. Lunch with a Leader offers our students insight into what those who have gone before them have done after leaving St. John’s. Their personal experience can be a big help to students who are considering the many career opportunities that will be available to them when they graduate. That’s the kind of information that can make a real difference for them as they plan for their futures.”

No matter where their careers have taken them, the alumni who participate in this special program as moderators and panelists do so for very similar reasons. They see it as a way for them to stay connected to St. John’s while showing their appreciation for what the University did for them when they were students. They also agree that they have a responsibility to reach out to current students who are looking to enter the profession that they themselves enjoy.

“It’s important for alumni to come back and do what we can to help the students, because these young people will one day be following us into the profession,” remarked Steve  Cosentino, R. Ph., CRA ’78P. “During the course of our careers we see and experience so much. It’s important for us to pass that along to the students, so that they have the ability to build on the past and move into the future. And it’s also a way to be a part of what’s happening at St. John’s and show what the University still means to us, even after all these years.”

Like many of his fellow graduates, Joseph Navarra ’92P has a particularly strong connection to the students of St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He shares his specialized knowledge of Pharmacy as a Preceptor, a role that affords him an opportunity to work directly with student-interns who rotate through approved work sites to acquire real-world experience prior to graduation. Serving as an panelist is another way for him to show his appreciation to the University.

“I’m always willing to give some information to the students, because it’s a way for me to give back to the University,” he said. “I’m proud to be a St. John’s alumnus, and I come back a few times each year to participate in St. John’s events. I got a good education and the University did a lot for me, so if I can be a part of this and other similar programs, I’m happy to do so. It’s valuable for the alumni to speak to the students, and it’s a good way for me to keep in contact with St. John’s.”

Since its inception, these informative panel discussions have always been well-attended by students, especially those who are close to graduation. They welcome the opportunity to learn from alumni who have already distinguished themselves in their profession, and realize that the insights and experiences of these successful men and women can provide a variety of alternatives for their own future.

“I’m about to graduate,” said Sara Rosenthal ’13P, “and my plans are pretty wide open about what I’ll do then. Even though I’m waiting on a few prospects, I want to learn about some of the opportunities off the beaten path that could lead to different careers in Pharmacy. The alumni panelists have all pursued non-traditional careers, and they have so much experience and expertise to share with us. I’m very interested to hear what they have to say.”

For Christine Fiore ’13P, the choice of which professional area to pursue after graduation has already been set. She will be working in a community pharmacy, and looks forward to addressing the healthcare needs of those who will count on her expertise to help them get well. She is grateful to the alumni who return to campus to help students make informed choices about their future.

“It’s always good to hear from people who are happy with what they do,” she said. “It’s good to meet people who are still inspired by the things they see and do in their practice. It helps to keep our profession fresh and gives students an opportunity to realize that they can do a variety of things. And it also gives the alumni a chance to share their pleasure in what they’re doing. Speaking as a student, it’s very inspirational that our alumni are willing to give back to St. John’s this way. I hope to do the same thing myself some day.”