Student Spotlight: Megan Matthews

Meet fourth-year PharmD student Megan Matthews, who was inspired to pursue pharmacy after a pharmacist helped ease her fears during a medical scare. Here, she shares how her experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic have been life-changing and her career aspirations of working as an ambulatory care pharmacist.

Where is your hometown?

I was born and raised in Griffin, Ga., which is about 45 miles south of Atlanta. However, almost 10 years ago when I left to attend the University of Vermont, my parents retired to a beautiful seacoast town in Maine. I consider “home” to be where my family is.

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?”

Pharmacy school wasn’t always a dream of mine. My background is in basic sciences, with a bachelor’s in chemistry and a master’s in pharmacology. Although I wasn’t sure where this path would take me, I knew for sure that I didn’t want to go to school anymore. When I was 21 years old, I found myself in the hospital following a transient ischemic attack (aka TIA or mini-stroke) caused by a spontaneous tear in my vertebral artery. I was terrified to say the least. The medical team decided to discharge me on warfarin, and I knew enough from my pharmacology courses to be concerned. When the clinical pharmacist came to my bedside for discharge counseling on my new anticoagulation medication, I remember feeling at ease. She shared all of the important information while being comforting and empathetic. In that moment, I saw becoming a pharmacist as a way to utilize my background to help others and make a difference in the lives of those who may be feeling scared or uncertain. Four more years of school was worth it!

Why did you choose to attend USC Mann?

When I came to campus for my interview at USC, I knew it was the place for me. The faculty, staff, and students made me feel as if I were already a part of the Trojan Family with their genuine interest in my background and how I could contribute to the school. Between this and the prestigious reputation of the institution, it seemed like the perfect program. Plus, who doesn’t love the Trojan Marching Band?!

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

It’s been a rough year. We’ve experienced such great hardships as a country, and my heart breaks for everyone who has experienced loss during these times. As a fourth-year on rotations, the pandemic has provided opportunities for us to step up as healthcare providers on the frontlines. In the last week alone, I’ve witnessed some of the bleakest moments of this pandemic on my acute care rotation. Rounding in the ICU and responding to codes, it’s absolutely unfathomable the toll that this virus has taken. The loneliness of patients and the despair of families is something I’ll never forget. Yet at the same time, we have the opportunity to provide hope and positivity in administering the first wave of vaccines. Patients line up with tears in their eyes, and it’s representative of all of this pain and suffering coming to an end. Seeing this full spectrum of hope and despair has been life-changing and has taught me that healthcare goes far beyond clinical knowledge.

PharmD student Megan Matthews receives a COVID-19 vaccination from classmate Camila Lis. (Photo courtesy of Megan Matthews)

If applicable, what was the most meaningful to you about receiving the vaccine? What has been meaningful about administering the vaccine?

When I received my first dose of the vaccine, I felt so giddy. The nerd in me was just thrilled to be a part of science. For the first time in almost a year, I felt hopeful and excited that we’re taking the first steps towards getting our lives back. I think this is a sentiment that many who are receiving the vaccine are feeling. I feel grateful to be a part of that through USC Mann and truly believe that I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities to serve on the frontlines of this pandemic had I chosen a different pharmacy school four years ago. USC and its leadership have worked hard to advocate for our profession as frontline healthcare providers and place us in a position to plan and execute a vaccine clinic. I’m forever grateful for these opportunities and I’m honored to be a part of these important public health initiatives.

What are your career aspirations?

I’m interested in pursuing a career in ambulatory care pharmacy. I have a deep appreciation for the continuity of patient care and the interdisciplinary nature of this setting. Serving patients in their management of chronic disease states provides me with the opportunity to educate, support, and comfort them, making a difference in their lives like a pharmacist once did in mine.

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

I’ve driven across the country four times from Maine to California. On a recent trip, my husband and I decided to take three weeks to explore the country and camp through national parks. We found that taking road trips is one of our favorite things to do. There’s so much beauty and adventure right here in the U.S. Our favorite park is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. We also recently bought a camper van, which has opened up a whole new world of camping!