For Ashley Idusuyi, forthcoming Pharmacy graduate, medicine is a family affair

Ashley Idusuyi (Pharm.D., ’20) is the oldest of five siblings, four of whom are either working as or studying to be pharmacists.
Ashley Idusuyi (Pharm.D., ’20) is the oldest of five siblings, four of whom are either working as or studying to become pharmacists. Watch an episode of her web show, "Sisters in Medicine," above.

Ashley Idusuyi, B.S., (Pharm.D., ’20), knew from an early age that she was destined to practice medicine. 

For the Boston area native, medicine is a family affair. Idusuyi’s father is a pharmacist; she has several family members working as doctors, pharmacists, and nurses; and her grandfather was an herbalist in his home country of Nigeria. 

“Growing up, especially with my ethnic background, it was always instilled in me to study and become something useful to society,” said the soon-to-be graduate of the University of New England’s College of Pharmacy. “I looked up to a lot of my family members, and my mother encouraged me to become a doctor.”

And, as the oldest of five children, the medical train does not stop with her. Three of Idusuyi’s younger siblings — Andrea, Ann-Marie, and Amanda — are also either working as or studying to become pharmacists. 

Together, the four have formed the Sisters in Medicine, a group that presents free health and wellness information online through a talk show on YouTube and accompanying Instagram page. The project aims to bring health and health care knowledge to people who otherwise may not have access to it.

“The ultimate goal is to be able to present health care knowledge and wellness information to underserved people, especially in simpler forms that they can understand,” Idusuyi said. “That way, health maintenance material is more accessible, and they can use that information to better themselves.”

While the sisters of the group appear in the videos, the youngest of the family’s siblings, Austin Jr., is also involved in the project; he films the show and edits the footage into the final product seen online.

Also involved in the show’s planning are two of Idusuyi’s cousins, who hold degrees in business administration. The group normally — when not in the middle of a global crisis — meets as a whole every two weeks to decide the subject matter of upcoming videos, what to post on Instagram, and when and where to film.

“We call them our ‘board meetings,’” Idusuyi said. “We really do have an entire team of people working on this.”

The project has amassed nearly 800 followers on Instagram, and the Sisters in Medicine have already uploaded more than a dozen videos to their YouTube channel, which has over 100 subscribers — and they promise to post more in the near future.

“We push out a lot of different information for people,” Idusuyi said. “With our TV show, we’ll post health information about different conditions and the medicines used to treat them, or we’ll post fun videos about getting active. I’ll be focusing more on the show once I finish up my clinical rotation.”

Idusuyi was on track to finish her semester at an ambulatory care rotation at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, but, due to the coronavirus pandemic, she has been completing her clinical studies via teleconferencing service Zoom. The pandemic has also forced the sisters to put their show on temporary hiatus, with a couple members away from home and working in the medical field.

Filming and sharing the show is one of the ways Idusuyi stays connected to her studies. It allows her to perform research, which she said is her primary focus within the field of pharmacy.

“I’ve always been interested in research and understanding how medications work in the body,” she said. “Now, I want to be able to contribute to patient care and be the person who figures out what medications will make a patient’s problems go away.”

Following graduation, Idusuyi will pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at Purdue University in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. She earned the opportunity by attending the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in 2019.

The fellowship will prepare her for a career in industrial pharmacy, the field of pharmacy involving the research, development, and manufacturing of drug products — an area with particular relevance as health systems the world over scramble to develop both a cure and vaccine for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Idusuyi said she is concerned about the spread of COVID-19, particularly as states start taking steps to reopen their economies. She cautioned people to follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, such as wearing masks in public settings and practicing social distancing.

“I also want to push the agenda that people need to wash their hands and practice good hygiene,” she strongly advised.

But Idusuyi said the current state of affairs has not dissuaded her from pursuing the medical profession. In fact, it has reaffirmed her decision to enter the pharmaceutical industry.

“I feel hopeful about becoming a pharmacist because I will be involved in research,” she said. “Since I will be helping with regulatory affairs and assisting with clinical trials, it’s very possible I might have a hand in developing a treatment for COVID-19, and I’m very excited to be contributing in any way that I can.”

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