PharmD graduate fuels a passion for community pharmacy

Arturo Herrera 2023Arturo Herrera II began working in a pharmacy as a cashier in high school. He fell in love with the community pharmacy setting and enjoyed a career as a licensed pharmacy technician for a little more than 20 years with companies like Eckerd, Target, Albertsons and MedSavers Pharmacy.

“The passion for community pharmacy never left,” Herrera said. “I felt that if I didn’t pursue pharmacy school, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

It wasn’t an easy decision or transition. Herrera, a single father of a now 17-year-old daughter, uprooted his life from Austin to pursue a PharmD at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

“Despite the hurdles, with motivation and determination, anything is possible,” said Herrera, who despite being older than the average pharmacy student, believes it’s never too late to fulfill a dream. “I’ve always said the only thing that can stop someone is themselves.”

His first semester was the toughest, adjusting to a rigorous curriculum and learning how to study again.

“Just a couple of exams in, however, I felt that proud moment when it hit me that I did belong here, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be,” he said.

Despite tending to his family and working throughout school in retail pharmacies such as Tom Thumb, CVS and HEB, he still found time to be involved as a student ambassador and was the founding co-president of the National Hispanic Pharmacists Association. Earlier this month, he was awarded the NHPA Leadership Award for Brilliance and Community Excellence and the Outstanding Graduate Award for his involvement in the National Community Pharmacists Association student chapters.

“What I’ve enjoyed the most about my experience here at HSC is the connections I’ve made with so many people along the way,” Herrera said. “Not only with classmates from my cohort but also from other cohorts.”

He also established connections with the faculty. “There have been multiple professors who have shared their personal cell phone numbers just to go that extra mile and make a difference for myself and other students,” Herrera said.

He looks back on pharmacy school with an appreciation for his experiences in interprofessional learning. “All the interaction and communication required with other health care professionals throughout the curriculum will help tremendously in my upcoming career as a pharmacist,” he said.

Herrera’s community rotation this year at HEB Pharmacy was his favorite, which aligned with and continued to fuel his passion.

“Not only was it a great and informative rotation, but it also resulted in an immediate job offer from that store as a technician, in addition to a separate job offer for a pharmacist-in-training position for post-graduation,” he added.

His next steps include studying for the licensure exams “like it is a full-time job” and enjoying the beginnings of a long career in community pharmacy.

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