Student Spotlight: Doreen Nilo

Meet Doreen Nilo, a third-year PharmD student and cofounder of Parmasya, the Filipino affinity group at USC Mann. Here, the Lakewood, Calif. native shares how a medical volunteer trip to Mexico solidified her desire to pursue a pharmacy career and how she hopes Parmasya will be an inclusive and educational platform.

What attracted you to the field of pharmacy? Any particular moment(s) that made you stop and think, “This is the path I want to take?”

My uncle, who works as a nurse at Keck Hospital, first introduced me to potential healthcare career paths while I was in high school. As I continued through undergrad, I began to gravitate towards the pharmacy field. I was fortunate enough to serve as a teaching assistant for both a biochemistry and a pharmacology course. These opportunities were crucial in developing my interest in how drugs work. I saw the career of a pharmacist as a chance for me to not only work with medications and understand the basis of their mechanisms, but to be able to interact with patients. One of the pivotal experiences in my life that solidified my pursuit of a career in pharmacy was volunteering with Healing Hearts Across Borders. Throughout this program I was able to work with the pharmacy team in providing medical resources such as over-the-counter products to three colonias in Tijuana, Mexico. This made me realize the impact pharmacists can have on disadvantaged populations.

Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy?

Initially I was set to attend a pharmacy school in New York. However, after attending my interview day at USC, I felt a real sense of community here. I was inspired by a short encounter I had with Dr. Patrick Tabon and felt welcomed by the pharmacy student who interviewed me, Whitney Fakolade (who I later befriended and is now a close mentor). I also saw the location of Los Angeles as a chance to help in underserved areas. I was intrigued by the opportunity to serve at health fairs, which provide free health resources to the general public. Additionally, I knew that at USC, I would have the opportunity to connect with distinguished alumni and faculty in the pharmacy community.

You’re a cofounder of Parmasya, one of the school’s newest affinity groups. Tell us why it was important for you to start a Filipino affinity group and what you hope to accomplish through the organization.

I consider myself very lucky to have two great role models in fourth-year students Charles Dela Roca and Claire Pamintuan. Together we founded the Filipino affinity group at the beginning of 2020 with the hopes of unifying the Filipino community at USC Mann. We envision this group to be a platform to educate the school community about Filipino heritage. Additionally, we aim to provide an inclusive space to develop friendships and share Filipino traditions among each other. Through the organization, I hope to reach out to students in high school or college and open up their eyes to pharmacy as a career. As teenagers transition into young adults, most of them don’t know what kind of career they want to pursue. For the individuals we get a chance to engage with, I hope to make it easier for them by exposing them to our field.

What are your career aspirations?

As of now, my goal is to continue working in the community setting and become a retail pharmacist. Doing so will give me a good balance of patient interaction, problem resolution, and allows me to access my knowledge of therapeutics. Retail pharmacists are one of the most accessible healthcare professionals and I would love to continue being a guide for the community to help address any health concerns that people may have. Recently I’ve been garnering more interest in a community-based residency and am keen to learn more about the program.