Joy and Purpose: All in a Day's Work
Alumna Recalls Journey to Serving RGV Community, Pediatric Patients
"Have you ever thought about becoming a pharmacist?"
As a high school math and physical education teacher, Briget Martinez, Pharm.D. (’07), BCPPS, MASPHM, was presented with this question by the parent of one of her students. A thought ran through her head: “I don’t want to count pills.”
"At the time, that’s all I thought pharmacists did," said Martinez, who now serves as clinical assistant professor in the Rio Grande Valley Pharm.D. Satellite Program and pediatric clinical pharmacy specialist at RGV program partner DHR Health. "As I was diving in to learn more about pharmacy, it was very helpful for my family members on medication. I thought, 'If I could touch the lives of those very close to me, imagine how many lives I can touch outside of that.'"
Choosing UHCOP because of its proximity to the Texas Medical Center, Martinez was a member of the Mexican American Pharmacy Student Association, now known as Hispanic Pharmacy Student Association.
"Serving the Hispanic community and educating its members on how to reach the community that is in the most dire need resonated with me," Martinez said.
Passion for Pediatrics
Following graduation, Martinez relocated to South Texas and spent six months as a community pharmacist.
"I knew deep down inside that this was the community where I wanted to be," said Martinez, who also serves as director of the DHR Health PGY1 Pharmacy Residency Program.
When DHR Health opened its Women's Hospital, she switched gears to health-system pharmacy. Working with the neonatal ICU babies as well as women’s services is something she never thought of doing during pharmacy school, but the ability to belong to an institution whose mission is to serve the community aligned with her passion.
"Our pediatric population is growing at a very, very fast rate," Martinez said. "I’m able to communicate with various age levels and motivate and encourage. To help patients understand medication compliance or their disease state, and to see that smile not only on the child’s face but on the caretaker’s face brings me joy."
Another source of joy for Martinez is her students. A clinical assistant professor in UHCOP’s Rio Grande Valley Pharm.D. Satellite Program, Martinez said, "I want to share my knowledge and motivation for what I do in hopes they pick up just little things so they can change the world."
The Rio Grande Valley’s growing need for adolescent mental health interventions is another passion of Martinez.
"In the pediatric ICU, we see our attempted suicide cases, our overdose cases," Martinez said. “"Those are the ones that are so heartbreaking for me. This is an area where I ask myself, 'Where could we do more? Where can I be better? What can pharmacy do to help alleviate this?'"
Martinez and a few of her residents are looking at a small population of VA veterans to later apply what they learned to their pediatric population.
Another source of joy and purpose for Martinez are medical mission trips to Guatemala, seven trips and counting.
"Our backgrounds, cultures, religions, titles – it doesn’t matter," Martinez said. "We all have a duty, and we orchestrate together to treat patients. No barriers, no walls."
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage
Drawn in by opportunities to network, promote the pharmacy profession and mentor students on a national level, Martinez is a member of the National Hispanic Pharmacist Association. When it comes to Hispanic Heritage Month, Martinez sees it as an opportunity to showcase the culture and educate others outside of it. But like so many, celebrating Hispanic heritage goes beyond just one month for Martinez.
"Christmas is very unique for our culture," Martinez said. "It’s a time for family. We have these huge dinners with tamales and rice and beans, and I look forward to that because that’s something you may not have all the time. It brings a lot of richness to the culture around food. Anytime we have the opportunity to engage in food and family, I try to do it all."