College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Graduates Reflect on St. John’s as They Prepare to Enter the Workforce

Red border around collage of Sanjana Abraham, Madison King and Vasillia Plakas from Class of 2024
June 6, 2024

More than 360 students graduated from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS) this year. These individuals conquered academic challenges and have also nurtured a broad range of interests and passions, paving diverse paths for themselves. While each is unique, they all possess the requisite skills and fortitude to excel in a dynamic world. Here are thoughts from some students graduating in 2024.

Sanjana Abraham

Doctor of Pharmacy 

What is your next step after graduation? 

I am thrilled to announce that I have been matched with Healthfirst as the PGY-1 Managed Care Pharmacy Resident for 2024–25. I am eager to contribute to Healthfirst’s mission of improving health service outcomes and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow alongside such a talented team and collaborate to achieve amazing goals.

How did your affiliation with St. John’s help enter the workforce after graduation?

Being affiliated with St. John’s University has been instrumental in opening doors for me regarding networks, connections, and communication skills. The pharmacy program at St. John's stands strong on professionalism, a characteristic that I carried with me to every interview and professional interaction. This enhanced my confidence and also helped me make a strong impression in various professional settings. The network and connections I gained through St. John's have been invaluable in my career journey, allowing me to navigate the pharmacy field with a solid foundation.

How did St. John’s prepare you with the skills you need for your chosen field?

St. John’s University prepared me exceptionally well for a role in managed care by exposing me to the stark realities faced by many individuals, including those uninsured, unhoused, and grappling with financial and physical challenges. One significant aspect was the opportunity to work at rotation sites like Project Renewal, where I had the chance to assist the underserved.

Why did you choose a career path in pharmacy?

I chose pharmacy as my profession because I see it as a crucial bridge between a physician’s diagnosis and the patient receiving the necessary medication. Being able to directly impact patient care by ensuring safe and effective medication use is incredibly fulfilling. It’s about translating medical knowledge into practical solutions that improve patients’ health outcomes and well-being. This role as a health-care provider resonates deeply with my desire to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. I pursued managed care because I wanted to listen to patients’ stories and serve as a voice for patients and pharmaceutical companies. Bridging the gap between these stakeholders is essential for delivering quality care and improving health-care outcomes.

Do you participate in service activities?

I participated in the Urban Institute’s Equity Scholars Program. In April 2024, we focused on preparing food and personal care items for the Midnight Run. This program involved distributing these essential items to the unhoused in New York City, aiming to provide support and assistance to those in need. It was a fulfilling experience that allowed me to directly contribute to positively impacting the lives of individuals facing homelessness in the city.

Was there a specific professor at St. John’s who inspired you?

Tina J. Kanmaz ’93P, ’95Pharm.D., Associate Clinical Professor and Chair of Department of Pharmacy Practice, inspired me greatly because she embodies the true essence of an educator. Her excellence shines through as a professor and a preceptor, and I am incredibly honored to have had her in both roles. Working under Dr. Kanmaz during my final elective rotation reignited my love for education. It instilled in me a strong desire to give back to the future generation of learners, as I was inspired by her dedication and commitment to nurturing students’ growth and development. 

Madison King

B.S. in Biomedical Sciences
ROTC Cadet

What is your next step after graduation?

I will be a student in the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Professional Nursing degree program. My ultimate goal is to be a nurse anesthetist, which is the first step in a long journey.

How did your affiliation with St. John’s help you with your admission to grad school for nursing?

Being a member of honor societies such as the President’s Society and winning awards like the Navy Federal Credit Union’s ROTC All-American Scholarship have positively impacted my ability to apply to prestigious universities. The national awards that I have received due to my work at St. John’s University and ROTC helped me get accepted to the University of Pennsylvania.

How did St. John’s prepare you with the skills you need for a successful career in nursing?

St. John’s University has given me skills I need to thrive in any environment, which will be helpful in nursing. I have developed soft and more technical skills thanks to the variety of courses that I’ve taken, my professors, and my internship experiences. Overall, I have acquired a network of individuals who have guided and helped me develop the skills that I need for my chosen career in anesthesia. 

Why did you choose B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from St. John's University?

I was initially drawn to St. John’s University because of its amazing and accomplished Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. That program started my journey at St. John’s University. I also appreciate the University’s diversity and commitment to student success.

Did you participate in clubs and organizations?

I was heavily involved on campus and participated in several organizations. I helped out with the Athletics Department, made calls during the phonathon, and was a Student Ambassador. I was also a member of the President’s Society—the University’s highest honor society—and Catholic Relief Services; Project Sunshine; R.I.S.E. (Reach, Inspire, Succeed and Empower) Network; and UNICEF.

Have you done any internships or residencies?

I interned with several organizations, including the Summer Health Professions Education Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, MLMIC Insurance Company, Partnership to End Addiction, Laudato Si’ Policy, and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Was there a specific professor at St. John’s who inspired you?

Konrad T. Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, and Director, External Scholarships and Fellowships, is an amazing professor, mentor, and individual. He has assisted me in every step of my journey to graduate school, as well as with my internship opportunities and scholarship awards. I hope to be as knowledgeable and influential as he has been for me and so many other students.

Vassilia Plakas

Doctor of Pharmacy

What is your next step after graduation? 

I will be a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Resident at NYU Langone Health’s Tisch Hospital/Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Pavilion in Manhattan, NY. 

How did your affiliation with St. John’s help you enter the workforce after graduation?

St. John’s University offered fruitful learning experiences and cocurricular events that introduced me to various specialties in pharmacy. Through the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Alumni Mentoring Program, I connected me with pharmacy alumni who helped me navigate the residency process.

Why did you choose a career in pharmacy?

I chose pharmacy as my career path as I desire to be part of direct patient care and work collaboratively with an interprofessional team. I want to understand the rationale surrounding medication use, and improve patient outcomes through optimized medication regimens. My personal medical experiences, as well as rotations in high-acuity settings, solidified my passion for pursuing residency.  

Have you done any internships or residencies? 

I worked as a pharmacy student intern at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Cureatr. I currently work as a pharmacology tutor for the nursing program at SUNY Morrisville.

What drew you to The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences? 

The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ dedication to service and excellence aligned with my professional and personal goals. Serving those less fortunate played a key role in my education and upbringing. I wanted to attend a university that embraced these same values, while offering a rigorous academic program with opportunities for student growth. In addition, St. John’s proximity to Manhattan allowed for ample opportunities to pursue clinical rotations and work experience at leading institutions in New York City.

Did anyone in your family attend St. John’s?

My father earned his M.B.A. from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and my brother graduated in 2022 from the Radiologic Sciences program at CPHS. As a native resident of Queens, NY, St. John’s University has been a household name since I was young. Relatives spoke fondly about the quality education, strong athletics, and camaraderie among students.

Did you participate in clubs and organizations?

I served as President of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Student Congress, Rho Chi Honor Society, and the Student Society of Pediatric Pharmacy. I also served in various executive board positions within the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy, and as OTC Medication Safety Chair for the American Pharmacists Association–Academy of Student Pharmacists.

Within the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy, I also had the opportunity to engage in the Peer Mentorship program, growing as a Peer Mentee and serving as a Peer Mentor. Outside of pharmacy organizations, I was an active member of the Hellenic Society, and served as a member of the President’s Society from 2021 to 2022.

How did St. John’s prepare you with the skills you need for a successful career in Pharmacy?

The didactic courses provided me with crucial knowledge of pathophysiology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, and the therapeutics of disease states. These skills were enhanced in our case studies and drug-induced courses, where we collaborated with peers in discussing patient cases and developing care plans. Our labs and drug information/literature courses allowed us the opportunity to hone multiple practical skills, including counseling, compounding, and literature research. The knowledge provided in our courses served as the foundation for our Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) rotations, which focused on practical application-based learning.