The Road to Success – 3rd Edition

The Road to Success – 3rd Edition

PILs presents reflections from recent grads of the PILs Coach Program and their pursuit of postgraduate opportunities, including residency and fellowship training.  We’re proud to announce that 100% of our protégés successfully obtained fellowships and residencies, including the 2 recipients of our inaugural scholarship.

The PILs Coach Program pairs aspiring residents and fellows with personal coaches to assist them in achieving their desired goals through a customized strategic plan.  Learn more about their personal journeys below.

Chelsea Sumner
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
Eli Lilly Visiting Scientist Fellow | Pharmaceutical Project Management

Initiating the journey of pharmacy school is a daunting task, but perhaps even more disconcerting is the thought of its completion.  I counted down the days to my graduation almost religiously, but it wasn’t until I sat down and began to reflect on my experiences that I realized what a momentous undertaking this journey had been.  If I could impart one piece of crucial advice to those of you on this journey it would be this: NEVER stop climbing the mountain, follow the path that works best for you paved or unpaved and always, ALWAYS lead the way so that someone can follow.

What I mean by this is that, no matter how smart you are, how high your GPA is, what school you go to or even who you know, this is not a journey that you do by yourself.  There will always be someone that you can ask questions of, that you can learn from and that you can seek advice from in order to find your best path.  This is where PILs comes in. You don’t have to know your final destination in order to start your path.  I met George Okpamen during my first year in pharmacy school at a SNPhA Conference.  Fall 2018, I found the first email I sent George during the Summer of 2016 thanking him for sharing his story and expressing my interest in his pathway.  George coached me through the ASHP Midyear Process and in securing a fellowship position.  In addition, I also had access to some of his previous mentees such as Jason Gaines and Jateh Major who were instrumental in reviewing my CV, providing me with feedback and insight throughout the entire process.  All of these things in addition to pushing myself allowed me to secure my fellowship role.  It’s easy to get caught up in the journey but remember, don’t compare yourself to others because you are your own competition.  Everyone’s path is different even if the final destination is the same, but you will never make it going at it alone.  And finally, whether you are 1,095 days, 730 days, or 365 days out from achieving that illustrious PharmD, just know there’s someone watching your path that is going to dare to follow behind you.  So, turn around and lend a hand because “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth,” and you my friend reading this are blessed.


Ashley Hendje
University of Charleston School of Pharmacy
PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident at Asante Rogue Regional

After not matching during my P4 year I could have decided to let go of my clinical pharmacy career goals, but I was determined to give residency another shot but this time with the help of PILs!  Shortly after graduation, I reached out to Dr. Blackwell via LinkedIn to inquire about the PILs coaching program and he connected me with my PILs coach, Dr. Vernon.  During my initial meeting with my coach, I was able to share my experience during the last application cycle and reflect on where I wanted to improve.  Soon after, we were able to create a detailed timeline of tasks I needed to complete prior to application deadlines.  This included CV feedback, program research, refined letters of intent, and multiple mock interviews.  During my interviews, Dr. Vernon was always a phone call away to answer any questions I had or even share words of encouragement.  I am proud to say that I matched to Asante Rogue Medical Center PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency and I one hundred percent believe I would not have matched if it were not for the support of my coach and the PILs program!  After experiencing the disappointment of not matching, I truly believe in taking advantage of the resources around you because delay does not mean deny.


KayOnda Bayo
Howard University College of Pharmacy
Eli Lilly Visiting Scientist Fellow | Global Patient Outcomes Real World Evidence – Oncology

The mentorship I received through PILs played an integral role in my professional development as I pursued a career in the pharmaceutical industry.  During my second year in pharmacy school, I was fortunate enough to meet my mentor George Okpamen who worked with me to create a timeline that he believed would help me achieve my goals.  As I matriculated through pharmacy school, I worked diligently to maximize each year as defined by my mentor, taking advantage of opportunities I would have likely overlooked.

George was really hands on with my development during my final year of pharmacy school.  He provided me with insights before each of my pharmaceutical industry APPE rotations to ensure that I properly utilized my time at each company.  I also benefited immensely from the useful edits to my CV and elevator pitch.

I can largely attribute much of my success at ASHP midyear to the formal mock interviews he orchestrated which greatly increased my comfortability and performance throughout the interview process.  Additionally, the real-time coaching and advice George provided while at ASHP midyear proved critical to my success as I traversed the whirlwind of interviews and receptions.  PILs not only aided in expanding my professional network and providing multiple keys for progression, but connected me with a mentor truly invested in my success.


Iman Ahmed
Howard University College of Pharmacy
PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident at New York – Prebyterian Hospital

Just like many pharmacy students, I was overwhelmed with the numerous postgraduate opportunities available.  After realizing this, I decided to network with an array of pharmacy professionals, who later became my mentors, in order to help guide me in the right direction.  It is because of these mentors I had along the way that I was able to learn more in depth about my interests and which career path was most fitting for me.  The mentorship that I received through PILs honed skills necessary to help shape me into a competitive residency candidate.  This mentorship provided me with various resources such as mock interviews, CV critiques, and application reviews.  My favorite part was creating a strategic plan that was tailored to my residency goals.  This opportunity was an invaluable experience and I am grateful for all of the support.  Thank you to my family, mentors, and PILs coach for taking the time to advise me in the most critical point of my pharmacy journey thus far.


Geanette Green
University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy
PGY1 Managed Care Pharmacy Resident at WellCare Health Plans

Since starting my pharmacy journey, I had the goal to complete a residency program.  However, from the beginning to end of pharmacy school my career plans changed drastically.  I initially thought I would pursue an ambulatory care residency program, but after working in a hospital setting, I quickly learned my plans were going to change.  During the Fall semester of my P3 year, I became interested in managed care pharmacy and my career plans were solidified after completing a managed care rotation the following Fall.

Solidifying my careers plans was just one step on my journey to matching with a managed care residency program.  This is where my PILs coach came to my rescue!  I believed my experiences throughout and prior to pharmacy school were unique and allowed me to become a competitive candidate for residency, but the thought of interviewing for residency programs was nerve wrecking.  I always felt I was a poor interviewer and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to adequately portray my strengths during on site interviews.

My PILs coaches Ashley and Bryan helped me tremendously to overcome my fears.  Prior to preparing for interviews they both reviewed my CV and personal statement then provided valuable feedback to enhance my application.  After submitting my application, they held a mock phone and panel interview for me to begin mentally preparing for interviews.  They and their counterparts provided constructive criticism on my elevator speech, how I answered questions and my presentation, which allowed me to present my best self during interviews.  Ashley also connected me with professionals with practice backgrounds that aligned with my career interests.

The support of PILs didn’t stop at interview preparation.  I did not anticipate the emotional rollercoaster I would encounter as I ranked programs for the match.  The support and encouragement that Ashley provided as I signed what felt like my life away during the ranking process was invaluable.  Having a team that was dedicated to my success as a residency candidate inevitably impacted my success in matching with my top choice residency program.


Mitchell Linton
Howard University College of Pharmacy
AbbVie Immunology Representative

The moment I was accepted into pharmacy school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in pharmaceutical industry.  I wanted to utilize my clinician experiences with business acumen to help impact healthcare from a global perspective.  Initially, I did not know where to start, so I instantly reached out to pharmacist in industry and asked questions.  My first year of pharmacy school (P1), I attended a Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) regional meeting, where Dr. Ike Oji introduced me to Dr. George Okpamen.  The rest is history.

Dr. Okpamen instantly stepped into the role of a mentor and an older brother figure guiding me through the process.  He gave much advice on how to be impactful at the early stages in my career and instructed me to be confident in my abilities to be successful.  Dr. Okpamen also aided with CV review, interview prep and career path development to name a few.  With the advice he gave me, I was able to witness it first-hand, while shadowing him on rotations at Eli Lilly.  I am grateful that I was connected with Dr. Okpamen early in my pharmacy school career.  It leads me to say PILs is a great platform, as you will be paired with great mentors, who assist in guiding you to success.  Because of PILs, I entered my fourth year of pharmacy school prepared to show my talents and abilities and successfully land a job.  My advice would be to network as much as you can, for you never know what you can learn or who you can meet.


Mary Young
Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy
PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident at UT Southwestern Medical Center

I’ve always had an interest in obtaining a residency.  As a servant-leader, going the extra mile to help others filled my CV with extracurricular activities.  After my first APPE rotation in oncology, I was certain I wanted to become a clinical pharmacist.  I had a competitive list of accomplishments and was able to refine my CV by P3 year through the help of mentors.  However, though confident in my CV, I knew I needed help navigating the rest of the residency application process.  As a first-generation American and the first in my family to graduate college, all of this was uncharted territory.  I had multiple mentors and many people I reached out to in order for help, however, I didn’t have one “go to” person.

Luckily, I was able to reach out to a PILs representative that had attended a residency panel on campus.  Dr. Onongbu was an amazing asset who was genuinely excited to help me.  She was my personal cheerleader who believed in me even though I had only met her once.  She kept me accountable to my deadlines and patiently answered all of my questions, no matter how random or small they were. It was nice to have a reliable resource in my corner that I could go to whenever I needed advice, whether that was once a month or twice a week.

The entire process of applying for residency and interviewing is challenging so I could not imagine doing it alone.  Thanks to the help of PILs, I received the opportunity to interview at numerous institutions.  In the end, I matched during phase I at an amazing hospital which I could not have done without the help of PILs.  I look forward to completing a general PGY1 and plan on using PILs as an invaluable resource when I apply for PGY2 perhaps in oncology.


Lauren Latten
Howard University College of Pharmacy
Cigna | Business Project Senior Analyst

I have always been intrigued by non-traditional roles.  As a result of my past experiences in finance, specifically global wealth & investment management, I was interested in pursuing an area of pharmacy that was a culmination of my clinical background and business acumen.  During pharmacy school, I was fortunate enough to gain countless mentors who exposed me to opportunities available within non-conventional sectors of pharmacy, such as the pharmaceutical industry.  Dr. George Okpamen was one of those mentors.

As a summer intern at Eli Lilly, he offered me an array of advice, mentorship, and took time to ensure that I was successful during my internship.  He also introduced me to other individuals at the company that are doing great things.  That introduction helped foster multiple relationships and mentorship opportunities that I still have today.  I am grateful for Dr. George Okpamen’s mentorship and the resources that PILs has to offer.  PILs is a great resource and provides access to opportunities, such as mentorship and professional development, which quintessentially equips pharmacy students with the skills necessary to solidify the next step of their career.


Ryan Hughes
Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy
PGY1/PGY2 Pharmacy Administration Resident at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center

Throughout pharmacy school, my passion has always been to provide leadership and be a supportive resource to my colleagues and coworkers.  As I researched career paths, it was evident that a Health System Pharmacy Administration residency program aligned with my enthusiasm for innovation and goal to advance the profession of pharmacy.  In preparation for ASHP Midyear, I sought advice from many pharmacists and residents, which lead me to Dr. Joshua Blackwell of PILs.  Through PILs, I networked with pharmacists across the nation who were ecstatic to conduct mock interviews and share their personal experiences.  Having a PILs mentor to thoroughly review my curriculum vitae, letter of intent and interview preparation elevated my chances of securing interviews and my overall ASHP Match experience.  The strength of the PILs Coach Program is the open communication between the mentor and mentee.  Dr. Blackwell and I scheduled regular appointments to discuss areas of improvement and evaluate residency programs from Midyear to Match Day.  My ideal residency program encompassed innovation, diversity, and teamwork.  Through prayer and perseverance, I found these qualities in Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina during Phase II of ASHP Match.  The road to residency is rigorous, but it is important to remain focused, true to yourself, and surrounded with positivity.  I am a proud product of PILs!


Martha Hopkins
Mercer University College of Pharmacy
PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident at Florida Hospital Orlando-Advent Health

A constant researcher and preparer, before beginning my pharmacy journey, I’d identified those areas of pharmacy that would suit me best personally and professionally.  As a third-year student, I decided to attend Midyear to get my feet wet and gain insight into what I would be facing the upcoming year.  It was this decision that allowed me to cross paths with Onye Ononogbu, PharmD, my first introduction to PILs.  I was enthralled as she recounted her Midyear experience as a student and the success that she experienced interviewing and matching to her program of choice.  It was her dream to help facilitate other students in having the same experience as she did during such a stressful time.  From that moment on, we kept in touch and I would periodically check in with her and check the PILs website for any new information!

My mission to acquire acceptance to a post-graduate training program of my choice allowing me to plant my roots in Florida and thrive in the professional space of my choice was laced with many tough decisions, moments of fatigue, stress, anxiety, and excitement.  As my plans and focus regarding programs shifted, my PILs mentors were there every step of the way providing me with support, guidance, wisdom and the opportunity to assess my unique situation taking everything into account.  The PILs family made a world of difference in my experience and my success in accomplishing my goals.  I was truly blessed to be able to acquire their mentorship during this time.  PILs is a structured program that walks you through every stage of the residency and fellowship process with targeted feedback, detailed insight and invaluable knowledge provided by those who have gone through the same process successfully.  The program is nothing less than inspiring, motivating and is single-handedly grooming the leaders of today and tomorrow.  I would encourage anyone looking to be successful in pharmacy to seek knowledge, seek meaningful relationships and take every opportunity that you can to grow and meet new people.  These priorities are what allowed me to learn about and become a #ProductofPILs.


By: Ashley Oliver, PharmD.  Dr. Oliver is PILs Ambassador and staff writer for The Package Insert. 

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *