Graduate returns home to work in rural health care

Originally published in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 2019 Annual Report

Osmark Jauregui
Osmark Jauregui

In the pocket of central Washington, before the Columbia River snakes through the now decommissioned Hanford nuclear production site, lies the small farming community of Mattawa, population: 4,437. Most residents of the predominantly Latino town work in the acres of surrounding apple and peach orchards, picking fruit that end up in supermarkets halfway around the world such as in Japan and China. This is where 26-year-old Osmark Jauregui, part of WSU’s PharmD inaugural graduating class in Yakima, found his calling as a pharmacist.

“I’ve always been interested in the way things work. My favorite subject was biology,” said Jauregui just outside of his worksite, the Columbia Basin Health Association (CBHA) clinic, a non-profit health care provider serving rural communities in central Washington. “Coming back here was a way to give back to the community that raised me all these years,” said Jauregui, who grew up in Othello, a 45-minute drive from Mattawa, where his parents worked as fruit pickers when he was a child.

Soft-spoken and modest in his responses, Jauregui shares that he was also accepted into other Pharm.D. programs in the state, “What WSU was offering was a better fit for what I wanted to achieve and much more affordable.”

Before Jauregui joined CBHA in 2019, only two pharmacists worked between two clinics helping central Washington’s underserved farming communities. It is a typical story in much of rural America, where health care workers are scarce and almost always guaranteed a job with salaries comparable to their peers working in larger cities. “Now we have four pharmacists on staff and we are able to take shifts rather than reducing our hours of operation,” said Jauregui, who spoke to WSU during his lunch break when the pharmacy closes its doors for one hour.

Jauregui landed his first job in health care at CBHA when he was just a high school student. In a serendipitous arrangement, his father worked as a gardener for the CEO of the CBHA clinic, which is how he learned about an internship at the pharmacy. Since starting work at CBHA, the clinic has served as a base for Jauregui to hone his skills as a pharmacist. “This is the clinic where it all started and gave me the opportunity to pursue a career in pharmacy,” said Jauregui. “CBHA helped me apply the knowledge I accumulated in my four years in pharmacy school.”

In many ways, Jauregui embodies the American dream. His parents, who supported Jauregui financially and emotionally throughout pharmacy school, currently work at CBHA as custodians. Taking no credit for his own achievements, Jauregui attributes his success to family, preceptors and anyone who supported him to achieving his goal of becoming a pharmacist.

“When I started working in a community pharmacy, it showed me the impact a pharmacist can have on patient health. As a community pharmacist, I hope to provide medication knowledge to make patients adherent to their therapy and keep them healthy.”