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The Nontraditional Pharmacy Career of Shannon Grady

Like many PGY-1 pharmacy residents, Shannon Grady spends her days interacting with a wide range of individuals: interns, fellow residents, senior clinicians and of course, patients. However, unlike most Doctors of Pharmacy, Grady faces the unique challenge of working with patients who aren’t able able to talk about their symptoms, share how they’re feeling or ask any questions they might have. That’s because she has a career in a highly competitive, difficult to break into segment of the field: veterinary pharmacy.

Grady’s love of animals began in childhood, when she helped take care of her family’s adopted pets. “My parents rescued greyhounds when I was growing up,” Grady says, “so from a young age I developed a special love for dogs – particularly rescued ones.” This interest dovetailed with her skills in math and science, and her aspiration to pursue a career in the medical field. “I always knew that I wanted to be a healthcare professional,” she states, “and realized that being a pharmacist would allow me to combine my strengths with my passion for helping others.”

Choosing UNE for its beautiful campuses and close-knit, burgeoning pharmacy program, Grady quickly became immersed in her studies. Early on, she approached her advisor, Cory Theberge, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, seeking guidance on how to gain exposure to veterinary pharmacy. “Shannon had a serious interest in the specialty,” he recalls. “She was preparing to take my elective course in veterinary pharmacy the following semester, but she was determined to familiarize herself with companion animal practice right away.”

Hungry to learn more, Grady began scheduling job shadow visits with veterinary clinicians while on breaks from school, where she had the opportunity to work with pocket pets (hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs). “This small amount of hospital pharmacy enhanced her excitement,” Theberge notes, “and we began planning an independent study to further her experiences.”

During her independent study, Grady began developing a survey to study attitudes that retail pharmacists have toward filling veterinary prescriptions. In recent years, the number of prescriptions being written for pets and sent to retail pharmacies has increased greatly. Grady found that retail pharmacists without veterinary training do not always feel comfortable filling prescriptions for animals or contacting veterinarians with questions. In turn, veterinarians may also feel uncomfortable sending prescriptions to pharmacists who have little exposure to the field. “My goal is to improve medical care for animal patients by increasing prescriber education for both pharmacists and veterinarians,” Grady says.

A personal experience during Grady’s third year of pharmacy school reinforced her career aspirations. She adopted Gizmo, a rescue guinea pig, who ended up having many health problems. Taking frequent trips to the veterinarian, she gained firsthand knowledge of the role that veterinary pharmacists play in animal healthcare. “Through medicating and taking care of Gizmo, I realized my passion for helping sick and injured animals of all sizes,” Grady recalls. “I also realized what a positive impact that veterinary-trained pharmacists can have on the veterinary practice, which motivated me to pursue additional training.”

At Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine where she is completing her residency, Grady plays a vital role on the healthcare team. She keeps track of medications being administered to inpatients, including doses, dosing frequencies and monitoring parameters. During her daily rounds, she ensures each medication has an appropriate indication and makes any recommendations she has. The rest of her day is consumed with a variety of tasks within the pharmacy, including filling and checking prescriptions, compounding suspensions and capsules, making sterile preparations in the clean room, and assisting veterinarians and veterinary students with doses and formulations of medications.

Grady’s expertise in the veterinary field has recently expanded, as she has embarked on a clinical research study. Working alongside a large animal veterinarian, she is examining the effects of different doses of pain medication in horses. In addition to injecting medications and drawing blood from a jugular catheter, she learned how to perform an equine physical examination, which includes measuring respiratory rate, temperature, heart rate, and listening to bowel sounds. “I’m also assisting in the urinary catheterization of multiple horses,” she says, “something I never thought I’d do!”

After her residency, Grady plans to continue pursuing her passion for increasing veterinary pharmacy education and strengthening the relationship between pharmacists and veterinarians. “During my elective course at UNE, I realized that there’s a need for more education in pharmacy schools regarding the dispensing of veterinary prescriptions,” she states. “I also observed that there are opportunities for pharmacists to become more involved in the pharmacological education of veterinary students and practicing veterinarians.”

Reflecting on her time at UNE, Grady expresses gratitude for the education and training she received. “As student pharmacists, UNE encouraged us to be a vital part of the healthcare team and to be confident in our knowledge base,” she says. This has become invaluable to her residency experience, as she applies these skills to her interactions with veterinarians, surgeons and students within the hospital. “Had I not had the opportunity to take the elective course in veterinary pharmacy,” she says, “I likely would not be where I am today.”