cynthia agu

Cynthia Agu Shares Journey from Healthcare Administration to Clinical

For Cynthia Agu, PharmD ’23, clinical healthcare runs in the family. Her oldest sister is a pediatrician, her brother is a nurse, and her other sister is a nurse practitioner.

As an undergraduate, though, Agu resisted this path. Instead, she chose to pursue a healthcare administration degree from Cal State Long Beach and a job in the field after graduation. Soon, though, she found that she craved more patient interaction. Eventually, she began to consider a career in pharmacy.

“You still get that management experience and you can help patients,” Agu said. “I was also interested in learning how drugs interact with the body and to see how they affect patients.”

She had to go back and take all of her science requirements, as healthcare administration only involved business healthcare classes. Her sister then recommended that she apply to Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Here, Agu learned more about the many diverse career paths for a pharmacist. She gained exposure to roles in industry—where people are involved in the creation of drugs, clinical trial coordination, and ambulatory, or outpatient care, which is used to proactively manage chronic conditions, prevent serious illness, and improve overall population health. She also discovered that pharmacists do far more than simply take orders from doctors.

“Pharmacists play a role in making sure that patients are compliant with their medication, determining if an interaction may occur based on a patient’s drug history, and deciding how to adjust if patients are experiencing side effects,” Agu said.

“A pharmacist can make their way into pretty much any field in healthcare because drugs are used everywhere.”

Currently, Agu is considering pursuing a career in either ambulatory care, hospital pharmacy, or industry.

“In industry, it would be amazing to see your drug being marketed to people and elongating life,” Agu said.

One of the most valuable lessons that Agu has learned so far at KGI is learning how to work effectively in teams. She already had some experience with teamwork as she played basketball in high school, but she feels that KGI has taught her specifically how to manage group projects with different personality types and how to navigate conflict.

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Agu said. “It’s really important career preparation because even right now as an intern at CVS, I’m still working with other people.”

Agu is actively involved in California Pharmacy Student Leadership (CAPSLEAD), conducting research with six other students and presenting at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), a national conference. Last year she worked with another pharmacy student to coordinate events for Black History Month with Student Affairs.

This year, Agu has worked with Cross-Cultural Global Diversity Chair Maria Melville, MS ’21, to coordinate another series of events for Black History Month, which is in February. Proposed events include a weekly movie night where everyone can come together to partake in an Afrocentric classic in the black community, a Newsletter Highlight featuring black KGI students, Virtual Black Jeopardy (all prizes and gifts will come from black-owned businesses), and a Reflection Information Session, where attendees will reflect on those who paved the way for African Americans and Black people to have the rights that they have today.

“I really appreciate the fact that KGI is taking the time to acknowledge Black History Month and that when I first approached Student Affairs about organizing something, they were so open to it,” Agu said. “I would love for everyone to join this year.”

If you would like more information about Black History Month, you can contact Melville at