Pharm.D. Class of 2014
Where did you grow up and what high school did you attend?
I grew up in Saigon, Vietnam. It’s called Ho Chi Minh City now. I came to the United States during my sophomore year of high school with an exchange program. I attended Sidney High School in Sidney, Ohio. After that, I came to Massachusetts to go to the Woodward School for Girls in Quincy. I’m an international student—my parents are still over there.
What was it like growing up in Vietnam?
The culture and the education system are very different. The schools are stricter. The people don’t have as many privileges or freedom as America, so being here opened up a lot of opportunities.
Why did you choose pharmacy, and how did you hear about the School of Pharmacy at Northeastern?
I always wanted to go into health science, and I was also interested in business administration. I chose to get a Pharm.D. because I like studying pharmacy and I’m good at it. I’m a business minor as well and might go into business school later. Pharmacy is good foundation for many other careers. I can choose almost anything.
I knew I wanted to be in Boston, and that there were two major pharmacy schools here. My teachers recommended the program at Northeastern because it’s more diverse and has more opportunities.
Did the co-op program play a role in your decision to attend Northeastern?
Yes, definitely. Graduating with a year of working full-time is a valuable experience, which a lot of students can’t put on their resume. The school works with you on whatever you need.
Where did you do your co-ops?
My first co-op was at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). I worked in the Sterile Products Department, which is a division of pharmacy for in-patients that makes IV mixtures, sterile solutions for surgery, and anything that needs to be sterile. I enjoyed it, and I’m still working there part-time.
MGH was the location for my second co-op as well, but this time I worked in the out-patient department. It was very different from in-patient because in-patient is an institutional setting and out-patient is a community setting. Out-patient is like a retail pharmacy, but focuses on hospital patients who are going to the clinics or being discharged. It’s a different patient population. It boosted my customer service skills a lot.
For my third co-op, I worked in sales and marketing at Astra Zeneca in Vietnam. That branch has a sales and marketing department but no manufacturing site. I went because I didn’t know what the industry was going to be like in Vietnam, and I thought it would be a good idea to explore different options because Asia has a growing market. The company culture was different because pharmacists in Vietnam are very young. They were all in my age group! And as the marketing co-op, one of my biggest responsibilities was assisting the project leader in managing new product marketing innovations. For instance, medical representatives used paper detailing aids to present a drug to a doctor. Lately, it’s gone interactive with the iPad. My position played an important role in the training, scheduling, launch, and overall transformation for that project. I loved it!
How did your pharmacy background prepare you for your role at Astra Zeneca?
My knowledge of pharmacy played a key role in my success in business. I couldn’t have come into the company with sales skills and been successful without knowing anything about the drugs. It allowed me to be better at my job and opened up so many opportunities.
How beneficial were your co-ops?
They were extremely beneficial because I got exposed to three very different settings of pharmacy, and I gained other translational business skills. I figured out what I wanted to do and what I might not want to do in the future.
Do you plan to go back overseas after graduation?
I don’t plan. If the opportunity arises, I would take it.
What is your plan for directly after graduation?
I probably want to work here for a while and then apply for a fellowship. Through afellowship, I would learn a lot and gain more experience. It’s like a medical residency in a pharmaceutical company, and they are extremely competitive.
What student groups and/or leadership roles are you involved in?
I’m an Honors Ambassador for the Honors program. We meet prospective students and families and are on panels for Open Houses and Welcome Days. I’m a member of the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society, and am active in International Student and Scholar Institute (ISSI) and as an Orientation Leader. I was a Bouvé Fellow last year and I’m also Cultural Chair of the Vietnamese Student Association. That position promotes Vietnamese culture within the Northeastern community. For instance, we had a fashion show. I’ve been involved with the Pharmacy Student Government Organization as Vice President for the past two years, and I’m Resident Assistant in Kerr Hall for the Department of Residential Life.
What is your community service involvement?
I had a part-time job teaching English in Vietnam. That was my favorite one so far.
How frequently do you get to meet School of Pharmacy alumni?
I met a few alumni during Health Science Entrepreneurship Day in November. This program introduces students to people in pharmacy and other professions who have started their own companies in the health sciences and who talk about their own start-up experiences.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll be 31 years old! Career-wise, I would like to be in a managment position in a company.
How do you plan to maintain a connection to Northeastern upon graduation?
I would love to work with the Admissions Office. I know they recruit a lot of students overseas, and I would love to be a representative overseas who meets with students and tell them how great Northeastern is.
What would you say to a student who is considering Northeastern?
I think it’s a great experience to be here because students don’t just focus on academics; they are encouraged to have different, practical experiences. Students learn and grow a lot when they are involved in co-op. Northeastern has 200+ student-run organizations on campus that would cover any interest you might have. I think the bottom line is that it’s a well-rounded educational experience.
What class and/or professor has made the biggest impact on you so far?
I like Health Care Systems with Dr. Barr. It’s about the American healthcare system, covering how it works, where the money is flowing, and how patients are getting help. To me, it’s a gigantic machine that doesn’t run efficiently. It’s extremely important and sparked my interest in public health.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not studying for classes?
Do I have the time!? I like to do different things around Boston. I took watercolor painting class at Kaji Aso on St. Stephen St. I like to do creative stuff to compliment my studies.
Which dorm did you live in freshman year?
West Village F, because that was the dorm for the Honors program back then. I loved it. It was the best freshmen dorm ever. It was apartment style so we had our own kitchen, bathroom, and common area.
What is your favorite hang-out spot on campus?
Rebecca’s Café, but I like the Boylston-Newbury area when I’m not on-campus.
What is your favorite dining hall?
Stetson East. They have more variety and the people are especially friendly.
A Few Words of Advice:
The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. -Steve Jobs