Keys to Success: Opportunity, Education, Support…and Pizza
“I was working the cash register in a grocery store when I got the email that I received a scholarship to attend pharmacy school,” Michael Toraño said. “I had thought my dream was impossible, and the support I received from the College made it a possibility.”
Toraño said that he could not have attended this program without support from the UH Dean’s Excellence Scholarship. “As a non-traditional student, I thought I was insane for applying to pharmacy school to start a new career, but I wanted to find a way to help people and feel like I was making a difference. The scholarship I received during my first year, and the multiple times I renewed it, made my dream a reality, and I could not be more grateful.”
Toraño said that he is always challenged yet supported as the faculty members tie concepts together across different subjects. Even with over 100 students in nearly every class, professors watch to be sure everyone is on the same page and feeling supported and connected. “I feel like I am in a room with extended family,” he said. “We call it our “Pharmily.”
Despite the extremely challenging curriculum, Toraño said that many of the most important lessons he learned were how important it is to maintain connection with the people around him and to lean on them in times of need.
“My most memorable part of being a student in the College of Pharmacy was when Tropical Storm Imelda hit during our first year,” he said. “I was studying for a biochemistry exam scheduled for the next day when we heard that classes were cancelled. My car had been flooded in (and so had many other people’s), so the leadership of the College went out of their way to buy us all pizza and give us a place to stick around until it was safe for us to move somewhere else. I felt so taken care of and safe. It was a great moment.”
Over the last few years, the College has shown me that I am not just a student to them. In fact, none of the students are ‘just students’ here. We are colleagues, future care providers, and above all, a family,
Toraño (PharmD, 23), said his experiences at UH have provided him with the tools he needs to be successful in his clinical rotations and anticipated residency. Since the first day, he has had high hopes and dreams—which Kimberly Nguyen, Assistant Dean of Student Services, recognized and supported. They worked together to make sure Toraño was on track to meet his objectives; Nguyen checked in on Toraño frequently and has continued to do so. “The College is so supportive of every student’s goals,” Toraño said. “It’s hard to imagine how they balance being able to tailor the curriculum to meet everyone’s needs, but somehow, they accomplish this and then some.”
Because of the ongoing scholarship support, Torañ]o plans to attend a national competition in clinical skills—something he said he would have never been able to do otherwise.
Through the College of Pharmacy Internship Mixer, Toraño was able to secure a position at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital and has since taken on the role of Lead Pharmacy Intern. Separately, he also applied and was accepted to a Longitudinal Pharmacy Externship (also called a “LAPPE” program) at Houston Methodist West Hospital, where he serves as the LAPPE Co-Lead.
“The lessons learned at the College were invaluable in seeking these opportunities,” he said. “Getting these experiences would not have been possible without the guidance of staff and faculty at the College.”“Over the last few years, the College has shown me that I am not just a student to them. In fact, none of the students are ‘just students’ here. We are colleagues, future care providers, and above all, a family,” Toraño said. “I have never felt as supported in an academic program, and when I am in the position to do so, I know exactly where my charitable contributions will go: right back to the college that helped me become the person I always hoped to be.”
This competition is happening on December 3rd, 2022, so depending on the date of publishing, the tense might have to be future.