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For the Pirachas, Pharmacy Is a Family Affair

Piracha Family
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What is better than having one member of the Piracha family among College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences alumni? Having four family members, of course!

Tooba Piracha ’14Pharm.D. was the first to choose St. John’s. “I attended a very diverse high school,” explained Tooba, who currently lives in Richmond, VA, and balances caring for a young family and work in a long-term care pharmacy. “When I visited St. John’s and met so many people from various backgrounds, I felt comfortable right away.”

A campus visit also convinced her brother, Fawad Piracha ’16Pharm.D., that the College was right for him. “When I came to see my sister, I interacted with a lot of students and was impressed,” said Fawad, who recently completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Pharmacovigilance/Risk Management at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where he is currently employed.

For brothers Zachary Piracha ’17Pharm.D. and Andrew Piracha ’20Pharm.D., cousins to Tooba and Fawad, the family connection was an important factor in their choice of St. John’s. Both brothers had been accepted to other pharmacy programs on scholarships but felt the pull of family. “With my brother and cousins at St. John’s, I felt that I would have people I trusted to advise me,” explained Andrew. “It would be a bit of home away from home.”

Service Runs in the Family

Once on campus, the Pirachas wasted no time in getting the most from their St. John’s experience, particularly through service activities. “Among the main reasons for coming here were the University’s values,” explained Fawad. “Although I am of a different faith, the Vincentian values are aligned with my own, and I found that attractive.”

Among Tooba’s activities was serving as Vice President of Phi Lambda Sigma, Xi Chapter, where she was involved in organizing the annual Healthy Halloween event that promotes good health habits among children, and My Vascular Valentine, a popular campus event promoting heart health.

Fawad followed in his sister’s footsteps, serving as the chapter’s Treasurer, and also was involved in the Rho Chi Society, Beta Delta Chapter, on a local and national level. These experiences have proven invaluable. “The skills I developed as a student leader—collaboration, planning, working toward a common goal—are probably the most important ones I gained in school in terms of my personal development,” he said.

Andrew has had a similar experience. He is a former President of the College’s Phi Delta Chi chapter and currently is the OTC Medication Safety Patient Care Project Chair for the American Pharmacists Association–Academy of Student Pharmacists chapter. “As a student leader, I have been challenged to handle all my responsibilities, and that has made me grow,” said the fourth-year student, who admits to being shy when he arrived as a freshman.

Rho Chi and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) were the focus of campus participation for Zachary, who has followed his cousin to also become a Post-Doctoral Fellow, Pharmacovigilance/Risk Management, at Regeneron. In 2016, he placed first in the University’s AMCP Pharmacy and Therapeutics competition on VENTAVIS®.

Personal Growth Opportunities

Service activities also provided personal growth. Zachary remembers one special moment. “I went to a nursing home on a service-learning project and encountered a woman with severe Alzheimer’s,” he recalled. “The experience put things in perspective for me. It dawned on me how precious our relationships are and how we have to appreciate things.”

For Tooba, service activities helped broaden her understanding of other cultures. “St. John’s gave me many opportunities on and off campus to interact with people of so many different backgrounds,” she said. “As a healthcare provider, this exposure was so important to becoming a better pharmacist. I learned not to judge people or assume that everyone is the same.”

Fawad and Zachary, who remain in the New York area, continue their involvement with the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences as speakers at various student organization meetings. Andrew, who is leaning toward a career in the pharmaceutical industry, would also like to maintain his ties after graduation.

“I worked as a tutor in high school and it gave me an affection for academia,” he said. “I would love to teach here later in my career. When I explain something and someone gets it, it is like a gift.”