Student Spotlight: Merry Ann Sta Maria

Meet fourth-year PharmD student Merry Ann Sta Maria, an aspiring pediatric clinical pharmacist from Oxnard, Calif. who recently contributed to an article in Pharmacy Times about novel drug combinations in precision medicine. Here, she discusses why she chose USC Mann and describes her journey as a PharmD student.

Why did you choose to pursue a PharmD—and why specifically at USC Mann?

I recognized that pharmacy offers a wide range of career paths, which intrigued me. This understanding of the versatility and diversity within the pharmacy profession played a pivotal role in my decision to pursue a PharmD, as it allows me to explore different areas of pharmacy and find my niche within the field.

I completed an undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine. USC Mann School has a prestigious history in the field of pharmacy, which made it an attractive choice for me. I recognized that by studying at USC, I would have the chance to network with many accomplished pharmacists and student pharmacy leaders. Networking with experts in the field can open up numerous opportunities for learning, mentorship, and career development. In addition, USC is in close proximity to many academic hospitals, many of which have internship programs and pharmacy rotations, which is another plus.

What are your future educational/career goals and how is the PharmD program helping you reach them?

My goal is to become a pediatric clinical pharmacist. I’ve always had a deep-seated interest in assisting children and their families in the healthcare journey, but it was my internship experience at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) that truly solidified my desire to pursue a career as a pediatric clinical pharmacist.

USC Mann School’s PharmD program has been instrumental in helping me achieve these goals. The program provides opportunities for hands-on experience, including rotations in various healthcare settings, which is invaluable for gaining exposure to pediatric pharmacy practices. I’m currently finishing my pediatric emergency department rotation, which has taught me so much about the medications used in urgent medical situations.

Maria and co-interns at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) in April 2021. From left: Austen Werab, Ginika Nwokeabia, Justine Montero, Maria and Chad Hayashi.
Maria and fellow first-year board members in PharmSC Clinic in October 2020. First row: Jason Jang, Jason Lau; second row: Ieeshiah Otarola, Nathalie Iribe, Kiranjit Rai, Maria.

How did you get involved in writing the article “Novel Drug Combinations in Precision Medicine: An Emerging Landscape for Pharmacists,” recently published in Pharmacy Times?

I talked with Amir Ali, a board-certified hematology/oncology clinical pharmacist at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, and expressed my interest in helping write an article. A few months later, Dr. Ali offered me the opportunity to work on this project.

I learned so much about the importance of precision medicine and a pharmacist’s role in the field, with guidance and mentorship from Dr. Ali and Dr. Jose Tinajero, bone marrow transplant and hematology clinical pharmacist at City of Hope. They provided a lot of insights and direction throughout the writing process.

What does the Trojan Family mean to you?

The Trojan Family symbolizes loyalty and support. It means having a network of peers, mentors, and alumni who are always there to offer guidance, assistance, and encouragement, not just during one’s time at USC, but throughout their life journey.

Jinny Kim contributed to this story.