UC Irvine was Ryan Kwok’s first-choice school. The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences – his first-choice program. So, you can just imagine his level of excitement when he saw the email from UCI starting with the word “Congratulations!”
“I was absolutely thrilled,” Kwok said. “My family immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong five years ago, originally landing in Northern California, hundreds of miles away from Irvine. I didn’t think I would get in. It felt a world away.”
Kwok quickly got down to planning his life ahead as an Anteater. The decision to pursue a degree in pharmaceutical sciences came the most naturally to him.
“Seeing the positive impact my uncle had, helping address the health needs of the local community as a pharmacist, I had made up my mind as a young child to follow his steps,” said Kwok, who is now in his second year in the BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences program.
Joining the Pre-Pharmacy Society at UCI was also a no-brainer. Eager to make the most of his time at UCI, Kwok quickly jumped in to engage with the small, tight-knit community at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He enjoyed the new perspectives he gained through conversations with new friends he met on campus and in the lecture halls while working on assignments together and discussing coursework.
Then, the pandemic hit. Chance encounters and coffee chats with professors were no longer the norm. The pandemic also took away the central social setting for the Pre-Pharmacy Society to socialize and share information about their passion, the field of pharmacy.
To fill this void and make do with the extra time they had on their hands due to the pandemic, Kwok and the Pre-Pharmacy Society launched the ZOTRx Podcast in September 2020. Inviting UCI alumni who were practitioners in the field, Kwok interviewed people from across the industry to share inspiring stories about their careers.
“I hoped my peers would find it helpful for their professional development if they heard about the experiences of people who were in our shoes before. I also wanted to make people feel connected during a time when we were all socially distant,” Kwok said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role healthcare professionals play in using science to help find solutions to global crises, making the podcast even more relevant.”
So far, the response to the podcast has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The ZOTRx podcast is one of a kind,” said Chrislyn Du, a third-year student in the BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences program. “It provided me with so much insight into the different fields of pharmacy, and most importantly, the experiences of the students who went down the path to become pharmacists.
“It not only showed how the unique experiences of the students inspired them to go down different pharmacy routes, from acute care to hospital pharmacy, but also how their interactions with people around them shaped their decision. These experiences are so helpful because as an undergrad, we are still exploring our career options, and it’s helpful to keep an open mind that our dream career in the future will be shaped by experiences and interactions that have yet to happen.”
Since its launch, the podcast has featured nine guests on the podcast, including pharmaceutical students and established pharmacists in hospitals and clinics.
The team hopes to highlight even more individuals and their career paths, including “dream guests” like Tony Dao, informatics pharmacist at CHOC Children’s, and Dr. Megan Nguyen, UCI’s Associate Director and Founding Associate Dean of Pharmacy Student Affairs.
When asked what he has enjoyed most about creating and running the podcast, Kwok, without hesitation, responded, “I have enjoyed every moment of it.” On a more personal level, the most significant benefit of running the podcast for Kwok has been the opportunity to gain insights directly from pharmacists on the frontline and get a fuller understanding of the role pharmacists play in the healthcare system. In addition to providing greater industry knowledge and connections, the podcast has also helped Kwok sharpen his communication and leadership skills.
As the Fundraising Chair on the Pre-Pharmacy Society board, Kwok has had a wonderful time in the club and would like to invite everyone to join.
“The Pre-Pharmacy Society is not just my club; it’s my family,” Kwok said. “We welcome people of all backgrounds and perspectives. You don’t have to be set on pursuing a career in the field to listen to the podcast or join the Pre-Pharmacy Society. You just need to have an interest in the field. Come check us out. You won’t regret it!”