There is so much to discover in the field of pharmacy, which is why third-year student Brittney Mikell chose to pursue a career in the profession. She has always had a passion for helping others and studying the unknown.
“I chose pharmacy because I derive joy from continuous learning, growing, and helping others,” Mikell said. “There are many professions that can cater to these interests, but pharmacy stood out to me because I am genuinely excited by exploring the biochemistry of the unseen. No one truly knows what medications in the human body looks like, which is fascinating.”
During her undergraduate years at a small private liberal arts college, she spent time hanging out around the University of Minnesota’s campus and grew to appreciate the area.
“Being in the cities and hanging out around the U starkly contrasted my undergrad experiences, and I loved the U for providing that balance,” Mikell said. “I was drawn to the U in an effort to recreate that experience and grow even more within it.”
Mikell added that the College of Pharmacy being one of the top-ranked pharmacy schools in the nation made her decision easy when choosing a pharmacy school.
After earning her undergrad degree and before starting pharmacy school, Mikell spent three years in Boston working in research at a hospital. During that time, she participated in multiple hackathons, which are events in which a variety of people come together to formulate solutions in their communities.
“I signed up for a hackathon on a whim because I have always had interests in innovation and thinking outside of the box,” Mikell said. “I was a participant in one hackathon and won some prize funding with my group, which was very rewarding.”
Mikell’s group worked on developing a mobile application that enables direct patient feedback to care staff. It was aimed at boosting morale and job satisfaction, primarily among the nurses at the hospital she worked at. Mikell said the application was particularly relevant because the hospital’s nurses were on the brink of strike and the hospital had been looking for ways to meet nurse demands.
“We worked so hard on the idea,” Mikell said. “In addition to me serving as a research scientist, my group included a software programmer, a graduate student in management, a medical devices sales representative, and a mechanical engineer. We each had varying skill sets and perspectives, which really helped us pivot our idea through so many iterations. The end product was incredible and the relationships that we developed with one another were invaluable.”
After that hackathon, Mikell worked with her team on building the infrastructure for the hospital that would house their idea. She also spent time helping to execute other hackathons and mentor other folks developing their ideas, but she eventually decided to pursue pharmacy and stepped away from that work.
She learned many valuable lessons from her experiences with hackathons.
“I learned how to innovate, pivot, and take critical feedback,” Mikell said. “I learned how to evaluate market values of products and rely on a combination of publicly available information and my intuition to determine the importance of an idea within the context of time. I generally think more broadly than most, which is good and bad, but I learned how to leverage these abilities to help others and myself grow.”
She is now using these lessons to help in her pharmacy career and in her efforts to change the world. She believes the profession of pharmacy is in a transition phase and that this calls for innovation. She said she believes the lessons she’s learned will be applicable when she and her fellow pharmacists decide who they want to be.
“I can see our profession doing so many different things that we have yet to branch into,” Mikell said. “I think about these ideas a lot, and I think that I might just be crazy enough to help my fellow pharmacists pull it off!"
Mikell is determined to change the world and likes to ask herself “what does the universe need from me?” She said she picked up on this phrase from one of her best friends.
“It's a mantra to stay grounded and humble,” Mikell said. “It's a reminder to know your strengths and when to outsource to someone or something else because no one person can change the world alone. The ‘change the world idea’ really signifies hope. The world is such a tough place and sometimes I am really discouraged by it. If I didn't believe that the world can be changed, I would be constantly depressed and there would be no reason for anyone to strive for some semblance of success and happiness. There's no way that I could live that way, so I actively choose to be a part of moving to change the world.”
Mikell isn’t sure what she will do after graduation, but she knows that she wants to be excited to execute her career every day.
“I know that this will only be possible if I'm helping make the world a better place, making someone's life at least a little easier, and taking good care of myself,” Mikell said. “I really just want to do good. That's it.”
Story by Owen Mageau