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PharmD Student Steven Wheelock Receives CSHP Student Leadership Award

Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) Doctor of Pharmacy student Steven Wheelock, PharmD ’23, recently received the Student Leadership Award from the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP).

As president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP-SSHP) and a representative for the CSHP-Student Section Executive Council, Wheelock has organized quiz bowls, collaborated with other California pharmacy school leaders in preparation for the CSHP Seminar, and helped facilitate the Clinical Skills Competition (CSC). In this national contest, students demonstrate their clinical skills via a team-based analysis of a patient case.

For the CSC, Wheelock overcame the challenges of preparing the team for the competition in an all-virtual setting, as COVID restrictions were still in place.

“I had to replicate the competition, as closely as I possibly could, how it would be live and in-person on campus,” Wheelock said. “We were able to pull it off, though, and everything went perfectly.”

Additionally, Wheelock has helped his organization collaborate with other presidents and leaders to provide patients with vaccinations, blood glucose monitoring, blood pressure reading, and information about their medications.

“These events are also an opportunity where we as pharmacists can help dispel any preconceived conceptions that the public might have about pharmacists,” Wheelock said. “We can show them we’re not just pill counters and that there’s a lot more that pharmacists can do including medication therapy, management, and counseling. We can even furnish certain hormonal contraceptives.”

One highlight for Wheelock was working with Community Outreach chairs Christina Shum, PharmD ’24 and Richard Chong, PharmD ’24, and President-Elect Kristian Marc Refuerzo, PharmD ’24. The students presented on everyday interactions between prescription drugs, food, and drinks at this year’s Mt. San Antonio Virtual Health Fair.

“I trusted my team, and they executed,” Wheelock said. “Our preceptors, as well as the pharmacists and doctors attending, thoroughly enjoyed our presentation.”

Wheelock was nominated for the award by his advisor, Associate Professor of Clinical Sciences Dr. Rebecca Tran. He is driven by the desire to support his cohorts in KGI’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“Even though I’m getting an award, I’m not here for personal glory,” Wheelock said.

“I’m here to build up the people around me, get KGI’s name out there, and push for recognition for my colleagues so they can get the jobs, residencies, and fellowships they apply for. That’s the underlying goal behind everything I do.”

What initially motivated Wheelock to pursue a career in pharmacy was the ability to empower his family with knowledge regarding their various health conditions. His mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, his grandmother with Alzheimer’s, and his uncle with HIV. Additionally, his father suffered a heart attack.

“All of them were taking several medications, and I wanted to become more informed about these medications and how they were helping,” Wheelock said.

During this experience, he got to witness the full spectrum of what pharmacists do.

“I saw a pharmacist in an inpatient care setting and ambulatory care setting, and I heard about pharmacies in pediatrics and oncology,” Wheelock said. “I thought, ‘There is way more to this career than I imagined.'”

He received the reassurance he needed that his family members were indeed receiving the best course of treatment.

“As a practicing intern pharmacist, I want to be just as informed as these pharmacists were and help other families who are in the same position mine was once in,” Wheelock said.

He is keeping his options open, but he hopes to work in an inpatient care setting eventually. When balancing his many commitments, Wheelock says that staying organized and keeping a calendar is critical. At the same time, he’s learned that he must set aside some time for himself.

“There’s some days where I have to go, go, go, but other times I’ll take a break and watch Netflix and be like any human being,” Wheelock said.

He’s also found that exercise helps him to unwind and recuperate. Most important for him, though, is having a solid support system.

“Sometimes I’m pulled in three different directions, and in these situations I might ask a good friend to attend a meeting on my behalf,” Wheelock said. “My girlfriend has also been a strong source of support, and I’m very grateful to her as well as my friends and family.”

Wheelock has been amazed with the professors and staff at KGI, particularly with how they’ve risen to the occasion since the start of the pandemic and done their best to accommodate everyone.

“I’m very humbled and grateful for getting this award,” Wheelock said. “I appreciate KGI for allowing me to take on all these leadership positions. I’m thoroughly happy with the path I’ve taken so far.”

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