Against all Odds
Local pharmacy tech overcomes to finish undergrad degree and heads to UT Rx school
Despite the hardships local pharmacy technician Sara Adams overcame to graduate just this month with honors from the grueling biochemistry program at Middle Tennessee State University in 3 ½ years, the engaging 21-year-old woman would humbly describe herself as ordinary.
Humility is often being willing to work for success.
Sara has taken the roles of student, caregiver, employee and teen in stride and has remained hopeful for the future.
Sara’s mother, Linda, was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis while pregnant with Sara. In the years that have followed, the degenerative condition has left Linda dependant on others for her care.
Although quick to share credit with the rest of the tight-knit family, much of the responsibility has fallen to Sara, who happily accepts her role as caregiver.
“[Mom] is the happiest person I know,” Sara said. “And probably the healthiest. She doesn’t have blood pressure or cholesterol problems or anything like that.”
Sara said her mother’s MS has slowly progressed from requiring the use of a cane to a walker, a wheelchair, to mostly bedridden nowadays.
“We get her up to eat lunch, supper and breakfast…but other than that she’s in bed.”
In part, the experiences have come to shape Sara’s career aspiration to be a pharmacist.
“I guess I’ve always had the caregiving personality because of my mom. I got the chance to experience a lot of science classes in high school…A[dvanced] P[lacement] chemistry, AP environmental sciences, AP biology and I realized that I really liked science.
“Throughout my life, I’ve helped my mom with her medication, so they kind of went together.”
Sara’s mother said that without her daughter’s care she would’ve had to gone to a care facility.
“I wouldn’t be home if she hadn’t been the part she has played,” Linda said. “I don’t know what I would have done.”
Linda explained often people don’t realize how much is out of reach by not being able to get out of bed.
“This is so simple, but when the dog barks, she’s got to get up and make her shut-up because I can’t get up.”
The journey to a career
Sara was accepted to the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy earlier this year and will begin classes next fall in Memphis.
“Right now I’m just trying to learn as much as I can before starting pharmacy school,” she said.
Sara and her friends at Baker Bros. agree that hands-on training is crucial to becoming the best pharmacists.
“It’s a learning process for me. They help me a lot. You have to learn your generic [drug names] and your brands and what they’re for.”
Sara was certified as a pharmacy tech in August, a process she modestly dismisses.
Baker Bros. pharmacist Dawn Hafer, D.Ph., is quick to explain how hard Sara has worked.
“There is no better practice than hands-on. [The pharmacy technician certification test] took her four hours. There is a book – thick books, volumes one, two and three – or courses at MTSU and TTU to help you pass that course. But she didn’t take them.”
Sara will work at the pharmacy, located just off the square until she starts school in August.
“I hope to [learn more] how drugs interact and how they work in your body, but the main job of a pharmacist is to check that the technicians have filled the prescription correctly, that the doctors haven’t made a mistake with the other medications that the patient maybe taking.”
Sara got a jump on college with the dual enrolment plan while still at Coffee County Central High School.
“I would recommend to any high school student the dual enrolment program through Motlow [State Community College].”
While at CHS, Sara completed both her college English classes and then knocked out speech class during the summer. When she transferred to MTSU, she took a heavy 18 hours a semester course load.
Biochemistry, the undergrad major designed for those planning on going on to professional medical careers, is a combination of biology and chemistry. Each has labs that run 3 hours a week.
“People tell me I’m smart all the time, but I think I just apply myself and do what it takes.”
She said the only class that stands out as being difficult was physical chemistry.
“That’s like the thermodynamics and kinetics of chemistry,” she says as way of explanation.
The course description online describes the class as a three-hour lecture and one three-hour laboratory for each course.
“This sequence of physical chemistry unifies a student’s background in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, however, instead of assuming an extensive background in calculus to develop the theories, the limited but additional calculus… is taught as needed. The examples and emphasis are toward applications of biological interest”
Hafer agrees, “These are not easy classes. Some of us had to work very hard to get through those classes.”
Hafer described the Sara and the pharmacy techs as essential.
“A pharmacist cannot function without technicians. They are our right hand. They help us communicate with our customers when we cannot get there in person, they help sift through the drug interactions – they help us do our job. Without them we can’t work.”
In addition to the curriculum, Sara’s scholarships required her to spend hours as a student worker.
“I had a lot going on,” she says with irony. “It’s nice not to have to think about school for a while.”
She said that she will divide her time caring for her mom and working at Baker Bros. until she leaves for Memphis this fall.
“She has been an exemplary student all through high school,” Linda said.