School of Pharmacy graduates Andrea Washington, left, and Brianca Fizer visit the place where their career goals began - Murrah High School.
School of Pharmacy graduates Andrea Washington, left, and Brianca Fizer visit the place where their career goals began - Murrah High School.
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#UMMCGrad2020: Pharmacy grads Fizer, Washington got start at Murrah

Published on Friday, May 22, 2020

By: Annie Oeth,

A Murrah High visit to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy in Oxford was more than a field trip for Andrea Washington and Brianca Fizer. It was a path to their profession.

Washington and Fizer, members of the Murrah High Pharmacy Club and now graduates of the School of Pharmacy, credit the organization for piquing their interest in Ole Miss and pharmacy.

“Faculty from the School of Pharmacy would come to visit us and exposed us to the different aspects of pharmacy while giving us fun activities, piquing my interest,” Fizer said. “We would also take field trips to the School of Pharmacy. I distinctly remember on one trip, Andrea and I looked at each other and said, ‘I think we can do this.’ We stuck with it ever since.”

Fizer and Washington, who both graduated from Murrah in 2013, first learned about the essential role of pharmacists in health care during meetings of the Murrah Pharmacy Club.

“We had the opportunity to meet and chat with several pharmacists in the Jackson area,” Washington said. “I learned that pharmacists are readily accessible and are vital to health care teams. We also had the opportunity to go to the School of Pharmacy in Oxford and meet with students and faculty there. During my time in the Pharmacy Club, I fell in love with the profession, and I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

A meeting of the Murrah Pharmacy Club is shown in this photo from Fizer's and Washington's high school years.
The Murrah Pharmacy Club meets in this photo from Fizer and Washington's high school years.

The two transitioned from Murrah to the Ole Miss campus and later to the University of Mississippi Medical Center by way of a “pharmacy phamily,” Washington said.

“Overall, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “The ‘pharmacy phamily’ at both campuses was amazing, and they did everything they would to help each student succeed. During my time in school, I was pushed not just to become a pharmacist but to become a knowledgeable and reliable member of a health care team committed to helping my patients.”

Fizer agreed. “Though very challenging, my experience at Ole Miss was great," she said. “I really appreciated everything it provided — the quality of education, the beautiful campus, the great amenities. I felt as if I was provided everything I need to flourish as a student.”

The Murrah alumnae were familiar with the campus just across the street from their high school.

“Being that I am a Jackson native and had done research at UMMC through Base Pair and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) in the past, I was really familiar with the UMMC campus, so it felt like home,” Fizer said. “The study rooms at the School of Pharmacy and the Rowland Medical Library were very useful. I felt as if I could study in a comfortable place, and that, ultimately, I was provided with the education and experience I needed to become an efficient member of the health care team.”

Clinical rotations introduced Washington and Fizer to becoming team members in patient care.

“During our PY4 clinical rotations, I was given the opportunity to feel like an integral member of the healthcare team, making recommendations for patients that affected their outcomes,” Fizer said. “The clinical rotation I had at the VA helped me to fall in love with direct patient care, being that I was able to sit face to face with patients while they voiced their concerns. My next rotation at the dialysis clinic at the medical mall only solidified this growing passion, as I continued to interact with and help make decisions for patients daily.”

Washington called her fourth year in the School of Pharmacy “memorable.”

“During this time, I was able to apply everything I’d learned to formulate treatment plans, conduct patient interviews, read and evaluate articles, and most importantly, communicate effectively with my patients.”

The two are among the many affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has led to commencement cancellations and challenges for graduates in health care fields

“This is the prime time for pharmacists to reach out and show what we are capable of,” Fizer said. “There is so much to be done and still so much still to learn. Drug research and efficient, reliable data is critical in a time like this.”

The pandemic has pushed Washington in her professional pursuits. “It has made me want to study harder for my board exams so I can get licensed to help those affected by COVID-19.”

Fizer’s next stop will be a pharmacy practice residency at Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System in Montgomery, beginning this summer.

Washington will progress toward her pharmacy license as a pharmacy resident in Louisiana at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport.

That Murrah’s Pharmacy Club sparked the careers of two of its former members makes the high school’s principal, Dr. Alvanette Buchanan, proud.

“We are so pleased to know that a foundation developed at Murrah has impacted our former students and has had a lasting impact on their career paths,” she said. “We are equally grateful for (clinical assistant professor for pharmacy practice) Dr. Terrence Brown, Dr. Meagan Brown (clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice and coordinator of community pharmacy development) and their University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy colleagues who meet with our Pharmacy Club once a month.”

The pharmacy club at Murrah is a part of JPS PREP, an acronym for Jackson Public Schools’ Pharmacy Recruitment Education Program, which was started by the University of Mississippi chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association to educate, recruit and retain minority students into pharmacy careers,” said Dr. Meagan Brown.

Fizer and Washington have been giving back by working with the Pharmacy Club, said Dr. Terrence Brown. Fizer was the JPS PREP coordinator, helping to arrange meetings among pharmacy students, pharmacists and Murrah students at the Pharmacy Club.

“Brianca and Andrea have been fantastic in being present and engaging the high school students by showing up and creating activities for them to do to ultimately learn about the impact pharmacists have on people daily,” he said. “We could not be prouder of them.”