Although originally set on a career in community pharmacy, Pharm.D. candidate Rhedda Onihana is now on a fast track into a non-traditional career in pharmacy while still working toward his ultimate goal of improving patient health outcomes.
After entering the Pharm.D. program at UH College of Pharmacy, Onihana became involved in the college chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) organization and was exposed to a range of new career options, including medical affairs/medical science liaison and industry pharmacist. Through various projects and interactions with industry pharmacists at conferences, Onihana said began to see the opportunity to be a positive force in patient care on a broader scale.
"The people of SNPhA just showed me this is another route you could take that’s not clinical focus, but also can still make an impact in patients’ lives," said Onihana, who emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria as a teenager. "I think about having someone like me behind the scenes and trying to see how we can make an impact in things like representation in clinical trials."
Onihana put his newfound passion to the test by entering the AstraZeneca Medical Science Liaison (MSL) Competition and team-based LEAP at Lilly Business Competition at the 2022 SNPhA National Conference in Atlanta. Onihana brought home second place in the MSL event, and his business competition team placed third.
"Those two competitions really opened my eyes to both the commercial side of the pharmaceutical industry, but also the medical affairs side of the pharmaceutical industry," Onihana said. "I see myself working in scientific communications or even medical affairs, bringing information from the pharmaceutical companies on clinical trials and the data into the health care industry or take insights from the health care providers and bring them back to the pharmaceutical industry so they can make changes."
Representation in Health Care
Onihana credits UHCOP SNPhA not only for its role in expanding his career awareness, but also serving as an outlet for his passion for patient care through its focus on underserved communities. He has chaired the chapter’s Power to End Stroke initiative and participated in health fairs across the Houston area.
"SNPhA is all about representing minorities in health care and that’s one of the first reasons I joined SNPhA when I was a first-year student," he said. "I could see this was a group of people who cared about minority representation in health care.
"It brings me joy to be able to see my impact and the impact of SNPhA because some of these people (in the underserved communities) do not have this direct contact, education and counseling in their lives."
UHCOP’s chapter of SNPhA is passionate about helping the underserved community, which is something Onihana is looking forward to continuing once he graduates.
"At the end of the day, that’s why we all became pharmacists: to help patients," Onihana said.
— by Logan Linder