Emma Kuss, a sophomore majoring in pre-pharmacy with a minor in chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Drake, has excelled professionally through her role as a pharmacy tech in training at a Hy-Vee pharmacy in Windsor Heights.
The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ pharmacy program is a six-year program, otherwise known as 2-4, that encompasses two years of undergraduate pre-pharmacy study and then four years in pharmacy school. The program concludes with a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree by the end of the six years. Kuss said there are many pre-professional experiences built into the latter portion of the program, but because she is still completing her undergraduate studies, she independently sought out her job at Hy-Vee to gain experience early.
Kuss elaborates on what her role as a pharmacy tech entails. She said, “When I go there, we have prescriptions to hang up on the shelves so we alphabetize those. I also help check out people when they come to pick up their medication, and then when we’re not busy, I get to practice on product dispensing.”
Kuss started as a pharmacy tech last March and has learned a lot through her professional experience since then. She said she loves having the opportunity to ask the pharmacists questions to learn more about different classes of drugs and their function.
“I love learning all the different kinds of medications,” Kuss said. “There are capsules and tablets, so I think it’s really fun to explore all the different classes of drugs, especially with antibiotics. There are so many different ways they can be made, which I think is so cool as well.”
Kuss has also had the opportunity to learn more industry-related subjects in pharmacy that go beyond the drugs themselves. She comments on one particular learning that she finds fascinating.
“Controlled substances have recently been under speculation because of the opioid crisis,” Kuss said. “So I was talking to one of the pharmacists and she was explaining more of this drug that we get called hydrocodone. It’s a generic version of oxycodone which is a very powerful painkiller, so it’s an opioid, and the manufacturers are getting audited about that because so many people are getting addicted to it. It’s interesting to see how that plays into the role of pharmacy.”
Through her experience at Hy-Vee, Kuss has gained more hands-on experience which has helped her narrow her career aspirations. She said she wants to do more of the research and development side of things. She could also see herself going into clinical pharmacy and working in a hospital setting.
While Kuss has pursued her own professional interests, she has inspired others along the way. Abby Ditsworth, a second-year who is also in the pharmacy program said, “One thing I admire about Emma is that she makes sure our customers are taken care of and she is a hard worker. She is always willing to stay longer or come in when help is needed or cover shifts. She is also very loyal to everyone, especially in the pharmacy, and she always helps you if you need it.”
Kuss has come a long way since when she first became acquainted with pharmacy as she has come to understand what her primary role will be as a future pharmacist.
“I think the biggest role is just checking over everything and making sure that people get the information that they need about what they are taking,” Kuss said. “It’s about being the professional in charge, the specialist who knows exactly what drugs interact with and making sure that you catch any mistakes that might be overlooked.”
Kuss is looking forward to the rest of her academic journey. She still has a long way to go, but Ditsworth leaves her with a word of advice.
“I would tell Emma to always be herself and keep her upbeat personality because it is something that will make her stick out, and patients and customers will really admire that,” Ditsworth said. “I would also tell her to keep working hard because I know she will graduate with some great accomplishments.”