WSU alumna challenges students to rethink community pharmacy

lisa garza and two colleagues

Lisa Garza spoke to student pharmacists on March 26 as part of the Washington State University College of Pharmacy’s “Preparing for Your Career in Pharmacy” Seminar Series. She challenged students to rethink what they know about community pharmacy and shared personal experiences from her pharmacy residency.

“Community pharmacy can be challenging but also very satisfying,” Garza said.

A WSU alumna, Garza graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 2014 and is currently a community pharmacy resident at Middleport Family Health Center with the University of Buffalo in New York. A pharmacy residency is most commonly a one or two-year professional experience that provides a pharmacist specialized training in a specific area of pharmacy, similar to a medical residency.

More and more, community pharmacies are focusing on the clinical side, which means providing services beyond filling prescriptions. Clinical pharmacy focuses more on the outcomes of patient illnesses, where pharmacists are more active in their patients’ health care plan, Garza said. Most pharmacies have new outcome tracking software that allows you to see how effective your pharmacy is in treating chronic health issues. Although the software is not perfect, it gives pharmacists a good snapshot of how they are performing, stated Garza.

The clinical side of community pharmacy is also very involved in the focus on “transition of care” happening in the health care system. Transition of care means ensuring optimal care for patients as they transition from one health care environment to the next. For example, consulting with a patient before they leave the hospital and then following up once that patient is home to make sure he or she is still taking their medication regularly. It could also mean adjusting drug therapy throughout transitions depending on the individual’s needs.

“You get to see patients frequently,” Garza stated. This enables pharmacists to perform follow-up counseling that doctors rarely have time for, and make sure patients are adhering to their drug therapy regimen. Having a personal relationship with patients makes the job more satisfying because you get to see your patients get healthy and live better lives, Garza said.

The College of Pharmacy coordinates the seminar series to expose future pharmacists to a variety of career opportunities in the industry and organizational leaders within those fields.

Garza believes her residency has been very beneficial and advised other students to do one as well.

“Invest in yourself,” Garza said, “[In a residency] you learn more than just how to be a good pharmacist and how to run a business.” She has learned specialized skills and gained professional experience that will help her work with individuals to identify and solve their health care problems, connect with patients, and improve people’s lives.

Garza plans to move to Western Washington after her residency and work at a community pharmacy for a year before purchasing it.

The WSU pharmacy seminars are funded through the Dean’s Fund for Excellence and the college’s community partner, the Spokane Teachers Credit Union. For information on participating in the career seminar series, or to contribute to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence to help expose WSU student pharmacists to thought-leaders and industry innovators, contact the College of Pharmacy advancement office at or 509-358-7651.