Fourth-year PharmD student has found her niche
Elizabeth Rubiconti didn’t take a straight path to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and started her P1 year two days after getting married. Now that she is a P4 PharmD student, she knows she has found her niche.
After high school she started on the traditional route to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I thought I wanted to be an oncologist, so did a pre-med track,” Rubiconti said. “Then I took a year off, and that turned into multiple years.”
She was working in Syracuse at a special needs preschool during the day, and as a pharmacy technician at a Wegmans in the evenings. Then she met her husband, who lived in the Binghamton area, and left her preschool position several years ago to move close to him. “I transferred to the Wegmans here, then saw a posting at Lourdes Hospital for a pharmacy technician.
“In my interview at Lourdes, the manager said, ‘They’re opening a pharmacy school here. You should do that.’”
It was just the push Rubiconti needed to jumpstart her career.
“I had started to think about where my career was going to go as a pharmacy tech,” Rubiconti said. “The job is very valuable to pharmacists. They are the backbone of the pharmacy and make it run smoothly and address all the things pharmacists don’t get to see. I enjoyed it, but started to think that I wanted to create a nice life for myself and my husband.
“So I looked at what I could do to further my education,” she said. “If I’d had to take multiple prerequisites, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but I reached out to Rachael Perry and I just started thinking, ‘What am I going to do? I’m approaching 30 and where am I going to go from here?’”
Rubiconti is glad she made the leap, though it was a lot of change at once.
“I was very nervous because I was getting married and that’s a big change in itself. I had a consistent income and everything was stable,” she said.
But she has a supportive husband, and completed her prerequisites at SUNY Broome Community College and joined the PharmD program in 2018 two days after she got married. “It was wild,” she said. “We wanted to go on a honeymoon, and then when I met with my advisor was asked, ‘Why are you here?’ We ended up going in January to Mexico for two weeks.”
“I also worried about being older,” she said. “Many students complete two years of prerequisites and start their pharmacy program in their very early 20s, so it’s a little intimidating to be older in the program.
“I think they look to me as a mentor a little bit,” Rubiconti added. “I am a tutor for lower classes, and I feel like when we were in groups I would often take the lead because I had already gone through that experience. That was helpful and completing a degree before pharmacy school was very helpful. It can be a big shock coming from high school or an associate degree and hit the ground running in something as difficult as the pharmacy program.
“I’ve made a lot of really good friendships here that I really and have enjoyed learning here,” Rubiconti said. “I’ve pushed myself to levels I honestly didn’t know existed. Learning more and expanding my knowledge has been rewarding for me, along with the friendships.”
At the time of this writing, Rubiconti was not on a rotation, but had completed three and was scheduled to start one at Oneida Health in November, when she’ll stay with family in Syracuse as her base.
She has completed a general medicine rotation at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse with Kelsey Hennig, assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice. “We reviewed patients in the morning and went on rounds with attending physicians and residents,” Rubiconti said. “Due to COVID we were actually in a computer lab and discussed the care plan and any changes, and about patients who could be discharged. Dr. Hennig, another student and I made recommendations or changes in medications based on what a patient would be doing when at home, and made the team aware of that.”
Rubiconti’s second rotation as a P4 was her capstone project with Wesley Kufel, assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice. “It was all remote but through Upstate Medical and we looked at over 2,000 patients on antibiotics to see if there would be any drug interactions and I’m in the process of completing the statistical analysis now.”
Her third rotation, at a community pharmacy, saw her administering vaccines, reviewing patients’ charts and counseling them when they picked up their prescriptions.
“I’ve also been working pretty much every day at Lourdes Hospital, and I also have RxPrep work, which is very helpful,” she said. “Some of these things we haven’t really gone back to in a while from what we saw in our or P1 year.”
Rubiconti hopes to stay at Lourdes following graduation.
“The pharmacy I work in is a hybrid model,” she said. “It’s considered a retail pharmacy, but also offers a discharge program that we’re trying to get off the ground. When a patient is leaving the hospital, we bring their prescriptions to their room and counsel them and answer questions so they’re ready to go right home.
“I really enjoy the pharmacy I work at, and where my boss encouraged me to go to pharmacy school. I’ve found a home there,” she said. “I would consider other locations, but Lourdes would be my first choice.”