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PharmD Student Utsav Shah Honored With CSHP Student Leadership Award

Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student Utsav Shah, PharmD ’23, recently received the Student Leadership Award from the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP). This award recognizes pharmacy students’ involvement in and contribution to CSHP and the profession of pharmacy.

Shah became interested in pharmacy while completing his undergraduate research project at the University of Waterloo, where he received his bachelor’s in Health Sciences.

“My research focus was focal epilepsy, and I did a systematic review on Zonisamide,” Shah said. “It was fascinating to see how medication works in our body, particularly affecting the geriatric population.”

Another factor in Shah’s decision to pursue a career in pharmacy was observing his grandmother, who had diabetes along with multiple other conditions, progress through her treatments. He became curious about how all of these medications were interacting with one another and their role in treating her conditions.

As a first-year student in KGI’s PharmD program, he started working in retail pharmacy as a CVS intern, followed by a rotation at Walgreens.

“I slowly transitioned myself because I had that straight focus that I wanted to work as a clinical pharmacist in the hospital setting,” Shah said.

Now in his fourth year, Shah has completed rotations in Emergency Medicine at Sharp Chula Vista and Critical Care at Adventist Glendale. These experiences have solidified his desire to work as a clinical pharmacist in an inpatient setting and pursue a residency upon graduation.

As part of the PharmD program, Shah is completing the Medication Therapy Outcomes (MTO) certificate program. So far, two of his favorite classes have been Critical Care with Dr. Quintin Broussard—which teaches treatment principles of commonly encountered disorders in critically ill patients—and Cardiology with Dr. Rebecca Tran, which helped him gain a deeper understanding of many of the drugs he encountered during his UCLA hospital internship.

In Critical Care, he learned about medication drips used in ICU, how to treat critically ill patients with shock, and how to apply antidotes in emergencies such as toxicity (for example, if a patient overdoses on or has an adverse reaction to a medication).

“This is one of the most interesting things I’ve learned during my time at KGI,” Shah said. “We had a special guest lecturer who shared relevant stories about her experiences managing critically ill patients while relating them to our lectures, which was cool.”

Shah is also grateful to his mentors, Dr. Daniel Kudo and Dr. Nazia Rashid, who helped foster Shah’s interest in research when he was involved in KGI’s Research Club.

Being involved in organizations such as CSHP has enabled Shah to develop his professional skills while building his network. He started by joining KGI’s student chapter of the organization as the Orange County Liaison, eventually becoming involved with the Inland Empire network and taking on more leadership roles, such as treasurer and secretary for the school.

These organizations are actively involved with the community, hosting free screenings and brown bag events. Citizens are encouraged to bring their medications to a pharmacist who will review and discuss each medication. They also support pharmacy students’ career development by hosting guest speakers, round tables, and other enriching events.

“I make a point to constantly interact with new members and learn how their pharmacy studies are progressing,” Shah said. “Last year, we had several first-year students interested in our club, and it was nice to see how they brought their unique backgrounds and perspectives to our chapter. I’ve enjoyed this collaborative aspect of being involved with these organizations.”

One highlight for Shah was working with President Steven Wheelock, PharmD ’23, to collaborate with other chapters within the Inland Empire in setting up a mock residency Western States presentation event at Loma Linda University.

Shah believes a leader should have integrity, self-awareness, and strong interpersonal communication skills. When balancing his time commitments, Shah says that staying organized and keeping a calendar is critical.

He sees his leadership award as not a source of personal pride but rather a way of furthering his mission to set a positive example for his cohorts. He hopes his achievements will encourage others to set ambitious goals for themselves while helping put KGI on the map.

“I am honored and grateful for getting this award,” Shah said. “I want to thank my advisors and professors for all the support, and I appreciate KGI for allowing me to take on these leadership positions.”