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“If you were to describe yourself as a child, what would you say?” 

“Curious and just like ready to learn,” said Anna Esther Lopez Concepcion from across my desk, smiling as she remembered.  “I think even now, I just see myself always wanting to learn more, always curious about things. I’m definitely curious and motivated in that aspect to learn.”

Looking at Concepcion today, it is difficult to imagine her as a child. She is put together, dressed professionally, articulate and poised. Yet, the traits she expressed as prominent in her childhood still some though. Intelligent, inquisitive eyes, eager to match my questions. And most importantly, no one could make it far into pharmaceutical school if they lacked a passion for learning. 

The student profile

Conception is a third-year pharmaceutical student at UH College of Pharmacy. Although young and energetic, it could be argued that she is more knowledgeable about her chosen career than most of us are prior to graduation. 

Currently, she is a pharmaceutical intern at Randall’s, spending every moment she isn’t busy with school filling prescriptions, talking to customers, dealing with insurance and learning about her trade. She’s learned a lot through hands-on experience, including that her future probably doesn’t lie with retail pharmacy. Conception is very patient-oriented, passionate about building long-term relationships with them so she may tailor their medication to their individual needs and be quicker to detect abnormalities. This is why she has her heart set on ambulatory care. 

For those interested in pursuing a career in pharmacy (or any branch of medicine), they should go in understanding the journey will be difficult. Earning Pharm. D. takes anywhere from six to 10 years (depending on your program, school and personal ability). Luckily, UH has ranked number one in the nation in first-time NAPLEX test passes from 2017-2020, so you’re in the right place if you’re looking for a faster track. 

“At UH, luckily, we have really, really good professors,” said Concepcion. “I feel like I have more access to them than I ever did in undergrad. You build up a relationship with them. I personally feel cared about because they’ll talk to us and be like, ‘Hey, you’re not doing as well on this topic. What can we do to help you learn it?’” 

The unwavering support from UH professors determined to see you succeed is undeniable. However, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. 

Although Conception is a scholarship recipient, she admits to supporting herself (food, car, class, etc.) through student loans. 

Cost v. gain

The total cost of pharmaceutical school, from start to finish, varies from $65,000 to $200,000. This includes undergraduate school but does not include things like books, living expenses, and other miscellaneous fees. 

But hard work is rewarding. Conception feels great joy in taking care of people, in making their lives and health better. She also carries pride in her heart when she remembers she is following in her mother’s footsteps by going into medicine. Conception’s mother was a doctor in Cuba. She wasn’t able to have her license transferred when she immigrated to the United States. But instead of giving up, she learned a whole new language, went back to school and returned to the workforce as a registered nurse. The work ethic Conception saw modeled to her as a child and the rewards it can bring inspire her to move forward. 

Additionally, she can expect to make around $120,000 to $160,000 per year in Texas. 

The future

When asked what advice she would give to someone to pursue a career in medicine, Concepcion responded that it’s best to get comfortable with the idea of long-term hard work and sacrifice.

“Learn to love learning,” said Concepcion. “Every day, there’s going to be something you don’t know. That’s okay. You’re gonna sit down, you’re gonna study it and you’re gonna learn it.” 

Conception is a glimpse into our future. She is a diligent Cuban American who inherited her work ethic and honor from her family. Her passion in healthcare centers around the patient. Her greatest desire for the future of her field is to see it become more affordable and accessible to all who need it. It is a future worth supporting, both for her and for anyone wanting to pursue a similar path. 

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