Dr. Karen Hargus Biehl, formally from Nevada, e-mailed me last week information about her achievements in education, with the idea that her experiences can show that it can be done and in hopes of encouraging others to go for their dreams. The 1977 graduate of Nevada High School has recently completed her doctoral degree in Pharmacy, reaching a major achievement.
Many of the readers will remember Karen as she is a daughter of Warren and Wilma Hargus. She is an example of those who have grown up in our mist and has gone on to reach their goals. The following is what Karen says about her experiences in education and her career: "I must credit 4-H for its contributions to my success. 4-H teaches kids to plan a project, determine what you need to complete the project, set a time frame to complete the project and reflect on your successes when you complete the project. I used that template to organize my semester, plan my time and get my projects completed on time. The same ideas apply whether it is a gift basket for the Youth Fair or doing a presentation for a clinical rotation. I actually finished my doctoral research project a year ahead of schedule! "The other message is that many opportunities for education are available to those who are willing to work hard. After graduating from Nevada High School, I started college at MU in the fall of 1977. My first hurdle was competing with students from all over the world of all ages in those all-important chemistry, biology and physics classes.
"Next, I took the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). This is a national exam and the scores were part of the application to pharmacy school. I was accepted to pharmacy school as a member of a class of 85 students (400 applicants nationally). I spent the next three years surviving pharmacy school and learning massive amounts of information about medications and patient care. My public speaking in 4-H gave me the confidence to excel in my patient presentations and written consultations. I completed a research project my senior year that resulted in publication of a manual detailing the needs of home IV therapy patients to community pharmacists (another 4-H inspired "project"). I received the Roche Pharmacy Communications Award at graduation in 1982. I then applied and was accepted to a Residency program at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
"My plan was to obtain my Doctor of Pharmacy degree, but it was not offered at UMKC or St. Louis College of Pharmacy. I then practiced pharmacy 20 years, always thinking about the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree, especially when it became the standard degree for pharmacy school graduates. I discovered the Working Professional Pharmacy Degree program University of Florida, through friends who participated in the program. I applied and was accepted into the program in 2005.
"I knew that the next three years would be time-consuming, but worth it is the end. Once again, the competition was on. This program has 700 students from all over the country. This is a distance learning program. My group met at Emory University once a month for presentations and exams. The huge workload of reading and essay exams required time management skills, as I was also working as a pharmacist during this time. The program also required 32 clinical projects (we had to find our clinical sites, arrange time with preceptors and complete written documentation) and a research project (required approval by the hospital's investigational review board) with a formal presentation. I completed all class work, projects and research on time and with all 'As.'
I was honored at graduation to receive one of four major awards, "Excel-lence in Pharmaceutical Care Research" for my project. 145 WPPD students completed the program this semester and many returned to Florida to participate in graduation ceremonies. 447 graduates were hooded and became Doctors of Pharmacy in Gainesville that day. It was a great and inspiring experience! "18 months ago, we started a new service at Scottish Rite (where Karen works in Atlanta, Georgia). We opened a new emergency suite with 50 treatment rooms, four trauma rooms, two CT scanners and two MRI machines. We see between 250 and 500 patients each day. I have a pharmacy in the ED and take care of ED patients. I love working closely with the physicians, nurses and specialists in the ED.
"I do patient counseling, participate in traumas, codes and intubations and research drug information questions. We see patients from all over the world who come to Atlanta. I also teach a medical emergencies class at my hospital, a pharmacy technician class at Kennesaw State University and have guest lectured at Mercer University and the University of Georgia Schools of Pharmacy. I have come a long way from my start at Bryan Elementary school in Nevada, Mo.! "Looking back on it all, I am aware that I did not do this by myself. My family, friends, 4-H leaders, teachers and professors give me the faith, confidence and determination each step of the way. I credit my experience in 4-H with giving me a framework to design a project, write up a presentation and complete the work on time.
"I still have projects at work in which I use the same skills -- it really does not matter what the subject involves, the same technique applies. I also think it is important to realize that it is never too late to further your education. Both of my daughters are now in college. Lauren is in pharmacy school at UGA and will graduate in 2010. Heather started a summer program for incoming freshman in July. They know my passion for education and the opportunities it provides. I have one final exam to take in October. It is a national board certification for clinical pharmacists. The subject I have chosen is pharmacotherapy, which involves designing medication regimens for patients to optimize drug therapy. That will hopefully be my "final exam."
Special thanks go to Karen for her story. This former 4-H member deserves a bouquet four leaf clovers.