Meet Danielle Colayco, PharmD ‘08, MS ‘10, executive director at the Komoto Family Foundation, who turned to an offbeat medium to spread the word about pharmacy’s importance: the coloring book. She will be distributing it at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 23. Here, she explains how the project came about.
What inspired your idea for the coloring book?
My daughter’s second-grade teacher invited parents to speak to her class about our jobs. My first thought was, “How do I keep a room full of 7-year-olds awake and engaged while talking about pharmacy?” I decided I needed something interactive that they could take home. But all I could find were books focusing on the dispensing of medications—and we know our profession is so much more expansive than that. So I decided to create my own coloring book.
How was it created?
I only had two weeks to prepare, so I spent an afternoon drafting the copy. Then I downloaded a free app on my phone and drew all the illustrations myself. I intentionally included characters of different ages, genders, ethnicities and physical abilities, to help everyone feel seen. I had a set printed for my daughter’s classroom, and they served as my beta testers.
That suggests you made changes. What was the revision process like?
My friend and fellow USC alumna, Lan Tran, also read the book to her kid’s classroom during their career day. For the second edition, I asked Steven Chen, who is also a board member of the Komoto Family Foundation, to connect me with a professional illustrator to help polish up the book for wider distribution. He introduced me to Matt Manos, associate professor of practice of design strategy at the USC Iovine and Young Academy and founder of verynice. Manos understood my vision and helped us take the book to the next level. I hired translators to develop Spanish and Tagalog versions as well.
How have children reacted to the book?
So far, it’s been a hit! My daughter’s classmates stopped me after every page to share their own stories of visiting the pharmacy to get their medicine and their flu and COVID shots. One raised his hand to ask how we help patients who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, so we took the opportunity to talk about the importance of accessibility, including sign-language and other types of language interpretation. I asked them what languages they spoke at home, and the kids were eager to share that they spoke Arabic, Tagalog, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi and more!
What do kids most seem to enjoy about it?
The crowd favorite seems to be the part about compounding medicines for pets—everyone wanted to talk about their own pets at home! Fun fact: Matt modeled the illustration after my own dogs, Lucy and Abby.
What messages would you like children (or anyone else) to take away from the book?
I included some pages on poison prevention, in loving memory of the late Kathy Johnson, who spearheaded the poison prevention program at local elementary schools in the early 2000s. When we got to this part, we talked about not taking medicines that are not meant for them—including the gummies, lollipops and other medicines they might find lying around the house. I’m mindful of the recent overdoses on CBD and opioids that come in many formulations resembling candy. Many of the public service announcements on drug overdoses are geared toward teens and adults, so this book may be an age-appropriate tool to facilitate conversations with younger kids.
The key takeaway, though, is that pharmacists are doctors who are experts in medications and vaccines—and you can ask us questions about your health anytime.
Colayco will be at the L.A. Times Festival of the Books’ Health Pavilion distributing free copies of the coloring book on Sunday, April 23. English, Spanish and Tagalog versions are available. The L.A. Times Festival of Books takes place at the USC University Park Campus April 22–23. For more information about the festival, visit events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks.