Scholarships propel student to pursue her dreams

Kellyan Nguyen, class of 2022, received the WSU Health Sciences Chancellor’s Excellence Community Engagement Student Impact Award in April 2021 in recognition of her impact in the community.

Kellyan Nguyen, class of 2022, has spent her pharmacy school career giving back to the community. As the first person in her family to attend pharmacy school, Kellyan credits her parents with instilling in her an appreciation for hard work, dedication, and resilience. She has put these traits to the test over the past year as the Women’s Health Fellow, working alongside non-profit, community organizations that reduce gender-based inequities in health care and cater to the overall well-being of young girls and women of Washington. Through partnerships with Planned Parenthood, YWCA, PhRESH (Pharmacists for reproductive education and sexual health), Range Health, and the Hispanic Business Professional Association, Nguyen was able to help create many long-lasting initiatives that positively shape and impact the women in the community.

“Together we were able to brainstorm innovative and resourceful ways to overcome barriers and bridge disparity gaps, especially in populations that suffer from lack of economic resources and access to basic health care,” said Nguyen. “I hope that the connections I have built and the initiatives I have created leave a permanent mark and become an inspiration to future students to carry forth and build upon.”

Nguyen will do her part to continue her legacy in the upcoming year as the Cougs in the Community Student Director.

Recently, she was recognized for her impact in the community with the Chancellor’s Student Leadership and Community Engagement Scholarship and the Chancellor’s Excellence Community Engagement Student Impact Award, honors which she counts among her biggest accomplishments since coming to the college.

“Receiving this scholarship allows me to fearlessly strive for my passions and empowers me to work harder towards my dreams. I am incredibly honored to have this achievement be a part of my WSU legacy,” said Nguyen.

The college had a chance to catch up with Kellyan to see why she chose WSU for her Doctor of Pharmacy and her future aspirations following graduation.

What made you want to get your pharmacy degree?
When I was a graduate student working at Mahidol University’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Bangkok, I became fascinated with the topic of pharmacology, particularly mechanisms of action and drug development. Studying pathways and biochemical interactions that a pharmaceutical can produce in the human body piqued my intellectual curiosity. Following that initial spark, I began interning at the Thai Red Cross to gain further insight into the role that pharmacists play in an interdisciplinary team. I was impressed with the amount of time and patience pharmacists spent counseling, explaining complex drug regimens in layman’s terms, and initiating a proactive course of action. I began to view pharmacists as medical counselors, educators, and advocates as it was a common observation to see pharmacists advocating for their patients as well as for their profession. From these pivotal moments, I aspired to emulate the pharmacists I observed who performed their duties well and took the initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Why did you choose the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences?
What stood out to me the most was how WSU heavily emphasized the importance of equal opportunity for their students. Being a student of color, I was impressed that a large portion of WSU Spokane’s matriculation was made up of minority and first-generation students. For me, those percentages are more than just numbers, it means that I am a part of an equitable education system. Following my interview, I was confident that WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences had the tools and resources that would allow me to become the pharmacist I envisioned to be. The mission and vision of WSU Health Sciences personally resonated with me because it embodies the epitome of what it means to be a healthcare leader. I was also drawn to the plethora of student-led organizations and community engagement and service-learning programs that the college offers.

What was your/your family’s reaction when you got into pharmacy school?
Both my family and I were extremely ecstatic! Being a daughter of immigrants, I am grateful for the countless sacrifices my parents have made so that I can relentlessly chase after my dreams. Having the opportunity to be the first in my family to attend pharmacy school was a proud moment for all of us.

What is your favorite thing about WSU?
My favorite thing about WSU is how immensely supportive the WSU Health Sciences faculty and staff have been throughout my pharmacy career. As a woman in science, I often face unique challenges and consider myself fortunate to have such strong female mentors. Many of the accomplishments that I have achieved these past three years would not have been possible without all their mentorship and guidance. I also appreciate how encouraging my pharmacy classmates and interprofessional peers have been throughout my journey. It shows me the importance of establishing a strong support system and having that sense of community. Being from Hawaii and moving to a new state, it was initially intimidating to leave my comfort zone. However, the life-long friendships that I have made makes that transition worthwhile.

What is your dream job?
My dream job is to practice in a hospital or ambulatory infusion center as a clinical pharmacist specializing in oncology. I believe everyone has been affected in some way by cancer, whether they are a cancer survivor, or they have a family member or close friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. My aspiration stems from my own personal experiences of losing loved ones, which became a motivating factor to find a profession that allows me to change the course of the disease for others. The science has always fascinated me, but the opportunity to help patients through difficult times is the main reason I chose to pursue this field.

Why do you believe scholarships are important?
I believe scholarships are important because they play a crucial role in making education more accessible and affordable while encouraging students to be successful in both the pursuit and completion of their degree. From personal experience, receiving college scholarships has allowed me to focus on my studies and aspirations without worrying about the financial burdens associated with higher education. In addition, I also believe that it encourages philanthropy in recipients to “pay it forward” and support educational opportunities for future students.