Student Spotlight: Zade Hikmat

Meet Zade Hikmat, a third-year PharmD student who co-founded a platform to support healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, he shares about an impactful summer fellowship and where he hopes his career in pharmacy will take him.

Where is your hometown?

I was born in Iraq, grew up in the United Arab Emirates and moved to the United States in 2013 at the age of 19. Here in the United States, I consider my hometown to be Burbank, California.

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?”

I chose to pursue pharmacy as a career for several reasons. The first and foremost reason was to become a healthcare professional who can be a benefit to society. Pharmacy also offers a wide range of career opportunities. Now in my third year of pharmacy school, it’s even more clear than before that there are endless possibilities within the pharmacy field, from community and clinical pharmacy, to industry and managed care.

Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy?

USC School of Pharmacy was at the top of my list among a few others. I did my research and soon realized that USC offered one of the best pharmacy programs in the nation taught by renowned faculty. One of the perks of being an established school is the strong commitment to extracurricular activities, which is evident in the multiple student organizations and events hosted here. All things considered, this was a deal too hard to pass on and after my interview day I knew that this was the school I wanted to attend.

Can you tell us about the work you do with the Cal Rights Meds Collaborative? How have you contributed and what have you learned through this experience?

Being a summer fellow at California Right Meds Collaborative was one of the best opportunities offered to me by USC Mann. I saw another side to pharmacy where we go a step further, from Medication Therapy Management (MTM) to Comprehensive Medication Management (CMM), where the pharmacists are working at the top of their licensure to provide clinical services to some of the most complex patient cases. I had the chance to work with health plans, learn about reimbursement, create workflows, establish pharmacist and technician modules and contribute to quality improvement. Above all, I gained incredible mentors — Dr. Steven Chen and Dr. Connie Kang — who created a positive learning environment for everyone involved.

Can you tell us about and what motivated you to start the project?

It was early in the year around the months of March and April when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a nationwide quarantine. The personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage was real and had a negative impact on our healthcare workers who were on the frontlines. I wanted to help in any way possible, which led to the idea of connecting those in need of PPE with those who can donate supplies. The platform was born out of that necessity. After a few days of its initial release I talked to my classmate Avantika Pathak and this became our joint venture. At that point, the FDA released a temporary policy for the compounding of certain alcohol sanitizers during emergencies, so we shifted our focus to connecting pharmacies compounding hand sanitizers to facilities in need of hand sanitizers.

What are your career aspirations?

By participating in the annual National Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Competition for student pharmacists and taking elective classes, I’ve come to realize that I’m very interested in pharmaceutical economics. However, I also enjoy the clinical aspect of pharmacy. Hopefully upon graduation I’ll be able to work in a field that combines these two interests.

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

I enjoy walking every day and hiking on the weekends. My average daily walk is four to five miles. The best time I spend is when I’m outdoors.