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Tania Stewart Selected as ISHP Pharmacist of the Year

When the Inland Empire Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ISHP) announced the recipient of its first Pharmacist of the Year Award, Tania Stewart never expected to hear her name, especially alongside a co-winner whose professional experience exceeded her own by decades.

“I feel very blessed and lucky. It was a complete honor, and I’m touched that the award came through my peers and recognition of my contributions,” says Stewart, an assistant professor and the director of interprofessional education at the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

For her students and colleagues, the award affirms what they already believed about Stewart: She is a deeply committed teacher and pharmacist.

“Tania does a great job of showing what a pharmacist can do. She is a very innovative instructor and a role model in the clinical setting,” says Daniel Kudo, a longtime clinical pharmacist who has worked with Stewart on the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP) Seminar and recently became an adjunct associate professor at KGI. “She shows dedication to the profession and is really focused on developing pharmacists of the future. This is why Tania is more than worthy of the award.”

Stewart got her start in pharmacy at Loma Linda University, where she completed her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and later became an assistant professor who earned awards as a teacher and preceptor. She also has maintained an ambulatory care oncology practice, working with cancer patients when they’re first diagnosed and as they undergo chemotherapy.

“As an oncology pharmacist, I’m very hands-on,” says Stewart. “I sit down with patients for an hour or more, talking to them about what they’ll go through, and I follow up with them each time they come to the clinic. Some people think this work sounds depressing, but if I don’t do it, who is going to walk alongside these patients? They need a pillar of strength to help them, to empower them with evidence-based information and work through this together as a team.

“I want to teach this level of compassion to my students because, at the end of the day, that’s what matters for patients. When you do this, you go to sleep knowing you’ve helped another person. And therapies have progressed considerably. There are a lot of wins.”

Stewart is teaching an oncology course for KGI pharmacy students for the first time this spring, and soon she will also be able to involve them in rotations at her new clinical practice site at City of Hope in Rancho Cucamonga. She notes, “As a professor I can make a larger scale impact. I have mentored quite a few pharmacists and also had mentors of my own who to this day continue to teach me.”

Her involvement in the regional and statewide pharmacy organizations is also driven by a desire to support students and her profession. Stewart says, “I do this because I care about students and I care about pharmacy. It’s been very fruitful. I’ve learned so much, and whatever I learn, I teach my students. One of our students won a scholarship, and I was on the committee to create that scholarship. Because I’m so passionate about students, I have to do this. The more our faculty do this, the more doors we open for students.”

Stewart believes that coming to KGI in August 2015 has also opened doors for her own development. She explains, “I never imagined I’d be doing interprofessional programs for 400 people at a time, and there are so many opportunities for research and collaboration here. I feel so excited and supported, and the positive environment encourages me to do more to help others. When it comes to teaching and patient care, I’m always thinking about how I can improve.”