Student Spotlight: Jason Jang

Meet first-year PharmD student Jason Jang, a new student ambassador who hopes to serve as a mentor and advocate to his classmates. Here, he shares the significance of participating in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, various virtual outreach events he helped organize as a member of PharmSC’s Health Fair Committee and his love for karaoke.

Where is your hometown?

I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Camarillo, Calif. in 2008 when I was 14 years old. I spent my adolescence in Camarillo until I started my undergraduate journey at UC San Diego.

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?”

Healthcare has been on my radar since I began to seriously consider my career options in high school. Pharmacy, specifically, attracted me because of how often overlooked and underappreciated pharmacists are despite the fact that they are the most accessible healthcare providers. I wanted to pursue pharmacy to not only provide direct patient care but also advocate for the profession. Before applying for pharmacy school and upon graduating from UC San Diego, I briefly explored different career options and joined UCLA AIDS Institute as a research associate to develop a gene therapy for AIDS treatment. During my time at UCLA, I was able to attend a AIDS gene therapy conference in Seattle, where I had a chance to speak with patients who had been suffering from AIDS for years. The overarching theme was that they were frustrated with the lack of tangible progress in gene therapy options for AIDS. I knew that there were several treatment options in the works utilizing cutting-edge technologies like CRISPR, but it would take years if not decades for these to reach the patients and make any meaningful change. That was the moment that solidified my decision to pursue pharmacy, so I can have a positive and direct impact on patient health.

Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy and what’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at the school?

To be perfectly honest, I initially chose USC School of Pharmacy solely because of its location and reputation, and I did not know much else about the program or the school itself. It was Interview Day in December 2019 that changed everything for me. One theme that was echoed by everyone that I spoke and listened to throughout my interview day was the significance of the USC pride, culture, and network. I learned through the student ambassadors and faculty that the world of pharmacy is small and that networks play a significant role in finding a job. Because of the long-standing history of USC School of Pharmacy and its distinguished alumni, I thought becoming a part of the Trojan Family would benefit me in the long run. Judging from the wonderful friends and mentors I have met in just one semester at USC School of Pharmacy, what the Trojan Family and network have offered me up to now has far surpassed my expectations.

One of the most memorable experiences I have had during pharmacy school is being a part of the Health Fair Committee for PharmSC. Despite the fact that we could not hold any health fairs last school year due to the pandemic, we still strove to fulfill our mission of “serving the underserved” by organizing virtual outreach events to educate the communities around us about relevant topics like the importance of flu vaccination, information about COVID-19, and ways to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic. It was such a rewarding experience to share my knowledge to positively impact our surrounding communities. Also, the people that I have had the pleasure of meeting through PharmSC have been the true highlight of my time here at USC School of Pharmacy. Each and every one of them has been a brilliant, kind, and wonderful friend and mentor to me, and I would not be who I am today without them.

What has been a positive for you being on the front lines during the pandemic? What have you learned? What has been memorable?

Being on the front lines during the pandemic has given all of us such unique opportunities to play a pivotal role in vaccinating the public. The most memorable experience I have had in the fight against COVID-19 was when I volunteered at the COVID-19 clinic at Keck Medicine of USC. It felt surreal that I was one of the vaccinators in the middle of such a historical moment. It definitely made me feel proud to be a student at USC School of Pharmacy, and I hope it reminded everyone else how important pharmacists are as members of the healthcare team.

As a student ambassador at USC Mann, what do you see your role as? What do you hope to achieve?

I have personally benefited so much from the current student ambassadors. From the moment I walked into the PSC building on my interview day until now, they have been such inspirational and proactive mentors and friends. Their insight into everything from academics, mental and physical well-being, internships, student organizations, and so much more has helped me adapt to pharmacy school and become a more well-rounded student. I thought that the least I could do is to apply to be a student ambassador myself and pass down the knowledge to the incoming students next year. I strongly believe in the power and importance of mentorship, and now that I have been given an opportunity to serve as a student ambassador, I hope to be communicative and accessible to my classmates so that they could benefit from me as much as I did from the other student ambassadors.

What are your career aspirations?

Because I am a first-year student, the short answer is, “I am not sure.” I am interested in working in an inpatient hospital setting, specifically in transitions of care. During my IPPE rotation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, I had an opportunity to shadow and observe what transitions of care is and how important it is to ensure a smooth transition and continuation of care for the patients. Luckily, I will be starting as an intern pharmacist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in May 2021, so I hope to be able to experience transitions of care and other various fields in inpatient pharmacy in the coming years.

What’s a fun fact about you that most people don’t know about?

Despite the fact that I am not a great singer, I love karaoke! I lived in Korea between 2016 and 2018, and there are these places called “coin karaoke.” People usually go by themselves or with a small group of people, and you pay per song. I would go there at least once a week and spend 2-3 hours every time singing my heart out. It is such a great and healthy way to relieve stress.