Student Spotlight: Kristin Keeno

Meet first-year PharmD student Kristin Keeno. She’s from Hawaii and graduated from Amherst College, she liked the School because it’s one of few that offers international rotations, and she’s a recipient of the School’s 2018-19 Fortuna Copia scholarship, which is awarded annually to two PharmD students.

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

One moment that made me appreciate the work pharmacists do was when I needed a recommendation while studying abroad in Japan. I was unable to read any of the medication labels, but the pharmacist who helped me was so patient and attentive despite the language barrier. I was able to pay some of that kindness forward during my work as a pharmacy technician in Hawaii, and that experience cemented my desire to pursue pharmacy. Having improved my Japanese during my time overseas, I was able to speak with customers and help them understand their treatment instructions and vaccine information. I loved using my language skills to teach people about their medications, and I realized that pharmacy was the perfect combination of all of my passions.

Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy?

USC School of Pharmacy offers an amazing number of opportunities, which is what really attracted me to the program. I’ve yet to decide which field of pharmacy I want to enter, so I wanted a program that allowed me to try many pharmacy settings. Last week we had our first introduction to some of the organizations at USC. It’s going to be very hard to choose which ones to join, but it’s great to have so many options. Another appealing aspect of USC School of Pharmacy is that it is one of the few programs that offers international rotations. My experiences abroad while I was an undergraduate were truly life-changing, and I’m looking forward to learning about pharmacy practice in other countries.

Tell me about your experience teaching English in Japan. 

I taught English at a high school in Hyogo, Japan, and that experience helped me recharge after an intense four years of undergraduate education. Taking some time away from school allowed me to appreciate all the resources available to students, and I’m definitely planning to take advantage of those now that I’m at USC. Most importantly, I was able to build relationships with people from all over the world. In addition to the Japanese students and teachers, I had coworkers from countries as varied as South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia. I discovered so much about differences in language, education, and culture. I truly felt I was learning more than I was teaching. It’s been a real blessing to continue friendships with some outstanding educators and watch former students go off on their own adventures in university.

You were born and raised in Hawaii, attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, taught English in Japan and now you’re living in Los Angeles. What do you enjoy about living and studying in Los Angeles so far?

I’ve been a bit of a nomad since graduating from high school, but Los Angeles is quite different from anywhere else I’ve lived. Honestly, I was pretty nervous about driving up here, but there are so many things to do and places to explore that it’s impossible to stay cooped up at home. I just went to Runyon Canyon Park with some classmates, and that was a great day because I love hiking in Hawaii, and it was nice to find a new hiking spot in LA. It’s also helpful that a lot of my friends from high school and college live in the area, so even if I’m new to the city, there’s still a feeling of being at home here.

Kristin Keeno celebrates with her family after the Class of 2022 White Coat Ceremony held on Aug. 16, 2018.

What are your career aspirations? Do you hope to combine your interests in teaching and pharmacy?

Ultimately, I would like to utilize both my background in teaching and my pharmacy education, but I’m not sure if that will entail going into academia or doing more informal teaching as a preceptor. I think most interactions pharmacists have with patients or even other healthcare providers can be considered teaching moments, so I’m sure that the time I spent as an educator will influence my practice no matter where I end up. Eventually, I hope to move back to Hawaii to help develop the University of Hawaii’s pharmacy program and push my home state to follow in California’s footsteps by allowing pharmacists a wider scope of practice.

How does it feel to be a recipient of this year’s Fortuna Copia scholarship?

Receiving the Fortuna Copia scholarship was a truly unexpected and humbling honor. I am so appreciative of Dean Papadopoulos, Dr. Park, and the alumni donors who contributed to this generous gift. It still surprises me that I was selected, particularly after meeting my classmates who are all incredibly accomplished and full of passion for pharmacy, but I will be forever grateful that USC believed in my potential to excel in this program. I hope that I will be able to meet those expectations and will endeavor to do so during my four years at USC.