College of Pharmacy

Pharmacy students reflect on a year of change and growth during the pandemic

By Arnessa Blanks

It has been over a year since COVID-19 affected communities across the country. This past year has been filled with wearing masks, following social distancing guidelines, and developing vaccines in record time. Today, healthcare students and providers continue to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Student pharmacists at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth have been doing their part. They are serving their communities in many ways while also staying on top of their studies to finish their rotations and coursework this semester.

Payton Simpson At Hsc Health
Payton Simpson administers the COVID-19 vaccination at HSC Health.

“I believe if we have the opportunity to serve, we should help whenever and wherever we are needed,” said Payton Simpson, a second-year HSC student pharmacist.

Sanjida Hoque, Payton Simpson and Mayela Warner are a few of the many students who are working diligently to ensure that patients are safe and well-informed during this pandemic.

Adapting to Constant Change

Fourth-year student pharmacist, Sanjida Hoque, was wrapping up her final year in the classroom when COVID-19 hit. With a new virtual learning environment, she became more organized with her study schedule to minimize distractions. She quickly grew familiar with the unknown and learned how to be effective.

Sanjida faced other obstacles such as maintaining her well-being and work-life balance due to the lack of social interactions that are normally in place.

“There were many celebratory moments I wanted to share in the presence of friends and family, but I had to forgo those moments or turn to virtual events instead,” she said.

Early on during her first rotation at a retail pharmacy, Sanjida experienced their quick adjustments to operating during a pandemic. For the first time since learning how to properly wear PPE, she was putting it into practice while providing curbside counseling.

“Patient interactions were limited and distanced,” she recalled. “Patients are one of our best teachers, so this change definitely made an impact on my number of learning opportunities.”

Sanjida plans to join a community or telehealth pharmacy after graduating this May.

“Five years of community pharmacy and a year of rotations have confirmed that I love playing a recurring role in the health journeys of many patients,” she said.

Standing on the Frontlines

It has been a few months since Payton Simpson began working with Tarrant County Public Health to help slow the spread of COVID-19. She has conducted contact tracing, scheduled COVID-19 tests and manned the COVID-19 hotline during her experience.

Payton has been active on the frontlines vaccinating HSC faculty and staff at the on-campus HSC Health clinic health clinic as well as retirement communities.

“Seeing the pandemic come full circle, from speaking with people who were greatly affected by COVID-19 to now being able to vaccinate our most vulnerable, has been extremely rewarding,” she said.

As the New Student Orientation leader, Payton was one of the first students to return to campus during the pandemic. She distributed take-home pharmacy lab kits and white coats to first-year students in a drive-through event last summer to help them kick off their year of remote learning.

Encouraging the Community

Mayela Warner, a third-year student pharmacist and pharmacy intern, has been working diligently to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the community while giving them tips on how to remain healthy during the pandemic.

“Though vaccines, viruses, and illnesses are common and make sense in my world as a pharmacy student, I had to realize this is something not every person fully understands,” she said.

It is important to Mayela to make patients feel comfortable when they are asking questions and voicing concerns about the vaccine before they schedule an appointment.

“COVID-19 has shown us just how vital pharmacists are in the healthcare field,” she said. “I truly appreciate listening to what our professors are teaching us about the virus and then being able to explain what I am learning to my patients, co-workers, friends and family.”