AACP > Resources > Student Center > Current Student Pharmacists > APPE Blog > Posts > Week 1: A Whole New World by Hillary Aphaisuwan
Week 1: A Whole New World by Hillary Aphaisuwan
A Whole New World
April 7th - April 11th

Hello, world!  My name is Hillary Aphaisuwan and I am currently a third-year pharmacy student (in a three-year accelerated program) at Midwestern University’s College of Pharmacy – Glendale near Phoenix, Arizona.  When I found out that I was awarded the opportunity to complete an APPE rotation with American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), I was ecstatic.  I often say that education is my first love while pharmacy is my true love in life.  I loved the idea of being able to combine the best of both worlds by becoming a pharmacy educator in the future.  I started to explore this idea as a student and was introduced to both this organization and this unique opportunity by one of my faculty mentors, Dr. Bill J. Bowman.  It seems like so long ago when I first visited the AACP website to see what it was all about.  Now, I’m here and I still can’t explain the disbelief and appreciation I have to have been given this opportunity.

My first day at as an AACP APPE student started when I stepped out of the cozy bed and breakfast that I would be staying in for the next 6 weeks onto the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.  The skies were a dark, gloomy gray that let down a light sprinkling of rain on my uncovered head.  Although most people might not have thought so, it was cold.  A very uncomfortable cold.  Here I was, with a coat not warm enough and no umbrella in hand, completely unprepared.  As someone who has been living in Arizona all her life, this weather was not my cup of tea.  As strange as it sounds, I love the 115+ degree weather and the way the heat of the sun feels on my skin and to be honest, at that moment in time, I was definitely missing my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.  Thinking back on this day, the weather was a relatively good reflection of what I was feeling at the time before setting foot into the AACP offices.  I was nervous to be in a new environment which always led to feelings of shyness and anxiety overwhelming me and I felt unprepared because I didn’t know what to expect as far as who I was working with and the environment I would working in.
All these doubts and fears quickly disappeared when I walked into the beautiful, bright offices of AACP where I was warmly greeted by all the staff with a breakfast just for me and Katherine, a new Governance Programs Administrative Assistant who was also starting her first day here.  Although AACP typically holds breakfast to greet new APPE students, I was more than happy to be able to share this day with someone who was also coming into a new environment like I was!

When I finally was able to sit with Jen Adams, the Senior Director of Strategic Academic Partnerships and my preceptor, I learned more about the projects and activities I would be involved in and became very enthusiastic with what the next 6 weeks held for me.  In the next four days, I met with a few Senior staff members who gave me a better idea of their roles and responsibilities within the organization.  I took more time to learn about different services and programs AACP offers as well.  In addition, I was able to begin research on my final project on a PharmCAS-facilitated, centralized criminal background check service for student pharmacists.
Although I loved being able to spend time with Senior staff members to learn more about their role with AACP and the journey that led them to a career in a pharmacy association, the activity that had the biggest impact on me this week was Strengths Finder.  Jen recommended completing the Clifton StrengthsFinder online assessment tool to find my top 5 strengths as a part of my first week here.  I had completed many free online tests out of pleasure before and I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what my strengths would be.  However, this test was not like any other.  Before completing the test, I read StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and was fascinated by the ideas presented in this book.  Rath explained that all too often, we focus on our weaknesses in life and attempt to improve on that to become a better person, employee, student, etc.  However, what we should rather be focusing on is our strengths. Although it would not hurt to try to improve on your weaknesses, your strengths stem from your natural talents.; focusing your energy on improving your strengths will exponentially improve you to where you would be an even more effective person.
The best example that Rath provided was the infamous Rudy story.  Now, I haven’t seen the movie nor am I a football expert by any means so please excuse any incorrect terminology.  Rudy was smaller than the typical football player and he didn’t have that much natural talent but this kid worked extremely hard to gain admission into Notre Dame and even harder to just obtain a spot on the football team’s practice squad.  He ended up finally being put into the game after countless of days on the sidelines, did something awesome and got carried off the field.  However, if someone has a great amount of natural talent in football AND puts in as much hard work as Rudy did, he would have been extremely more successful than Rudy.  I mean, what if Rudy had a natural talent in chemistry?  Let’s say he put just as much hard work into this strength instead; he could have ended up creating a new compound that was an effective treatment for cancer or something!  Okay, probably a bit extreme here. As Roth states in his book, I think the best way to sum up this idea is not “You can be anything you want to be” but rather “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

My five strengths of the StrengthsFinder assessment tool were relator, harmony, consistency, responsibility and arranger.  The tool ended up not only giving me a general description of these strengths, but additional individualized assessments of these strengths as well as ideas on how I can enhance these strengths by incorporating certain activities in my daily work life.  When I started reading these descriptions, I felt like I knew that these were characteristics I had…I just had never looked at them as strengths.  The more I thought about each one of these strengths, the better I was able to relate them to my daily tasks.  I printed out a small paper listing my five strengths and pinned it near my computer; I’ve been using it as a constant reminder of my strengths so that I can continually reflect on how I can not only improve on these, but how I can use them to become more effective in my day-to-day work life at AACP. 

While at AACP, I wanted to focus on my strengths of relator and responsibility.  I know I excel when I build deeper relationships with the people I work with; although it will be a challenge in the short time that I am here, I can be more proactive in establishing strong bonds with the AACP staff.  For my strength of responsibility, StrengthsFinder suggests that I push myself to limit the amount of projects and activities I volunteer for.  If I focus on only reaching out for projects that I’m highly interested in, I can prevent spreading myself too thin and be able to produce higher quality work for projects I am responsible for.  This is a struggle I am all too familiar with so improvement in this area will definitely help me in my future endeavors.  In the next year as a PGY1 resident, I hope to focus on improving all five by setting goals for each strength at the beginning of my residency based off of the type of work I will be involved in.

In addition, all of the AACP staff have a small printed list of their top five strengths outside their office. Jen says she uses this to not only give her a better idea on how she and other staff members could work best together on a project, but how she can approach each person based off of both of their differing strengths.  As I entered different offices of the Senior staff members this week for our meeting to learn more about their role, it was definitely neat to see their strengths (and if we had any in common!) and how that plays into their responsibilities at this organization.

Looking back at my first day in Alexandria, VA, I can see why I was much more apprehensive and nervous than usual for this rotation based on my strengths.  I thrive on harmony, consistency and deep relationships –none of which I was able to establish at that point in time.  As I got into the groove of things at the office and started building relationships with the staff by connecting with them outside of the office, I became more relaxed and comfortable as the week went on.  Coincidentally, the skies have cleared up since the beginning of the week and now I can’t wait to take walks outside to enjoy the beautiful weather this area has to offer.  I even spend extra time outside by walking back home for lunch a couple days of the week.  Now that I am more comfortable in my skin and have a better outlook on how to use my strengths to my advantage at this rotation, I cannot wait to see what the next five weeks at AACP has to offer.

Hillary Aphaisuwan
PharmD Candidate, Class of 2014
Midwestern University, College of Pharmacy – Glendale



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