Practicing With a Purpose

AACP Article

What could have been a career-ending car accident for a WNE University student pharmacist is now an opportunity to accomplish even more.

By Maureen Thielemans

Stay positive. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

There are countless expressions of consolation meant to uplift someone experiencing hardship. Oftentimes it’s hard to find the truth in these words, but one former Western New England University student pharmacist is rising to the seemingly insurmountable challenges he’s encountered in the past two years, and beating the odds. His perseverance is remarkable, and he credits the tremendous support, both personally and professionally, he’s received from his WNE deans, faculty and fellow students.

A Major Setback

On Oct. 30, 2015 Jeffrey Mazzamurro, Pharm.D., had just completed his final day of a six-week longitudinal APPE rotation at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass. He was driving home to Connecticut when his car lost its grip, hit a median and flipped a few times. The resulting injuries left him wheelchair-bound, as a C5-C6 tetraplegic, with no leg, core or finger movement. He has just partial arm mobility.

Mazzamurro still had three APPE rotations to complete before he could graduate, which would now prove difficult. But WNE University College of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Evan Robinson, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Dr. Joshua J. Spooner and Assistant Dean of Experiential Affairs Dr. Kim Tanzer stepped in to help, going above-and-beyond the typical responsibilities of a student-educator relationship.

“Dean Robinson and Dean Spooner drove an hour to see me in the hospital, and checked in on me periodically. Whenever I needed anything, they were there,” Mazzamurro said. “They gave me their mobile numbers in case they were out of the office. Dean Tanzer traveled a lot too. We had meetings with my rotation preceptors, whether it was virtual or in person, and she drove from Massachusetts to Connecticut to meet with me.”

Jeffrey MazzamurroNow having the clinical knowledge and being ‘on the other side of the bed’ gives me the whole, encompassed knowledge.

Jeffrey Mazzamurro

Schools Step Up

Assessing the extent of Mazzamurro’s injury, and how that would impact the rest of his education and future career, was paramount. With one semester and three APPE rotations to finish before graduation in spring 2016, the logistics facing him were extremely challenging. His WNE team of faculty and administrators quickly mobilized to find rotations that he’d be able to complete as a tetraplegic.

Mazzamurro was now back home in Connecticut, so completing rotations in Massachusetts, where WNE is located, was not feasible. His deans contacted pharmacy schools in Connecticut to inquire about experiential opportunities that could be made available to him—effectively asking if they would be willing to give up a rotation spot from one of their own students and offer it to Mazzamurro. 

“Everyone really worked together, making calls and pulling strings,” he said. 

In February 2016, Mazzamurro began his final three rotations, two of which he completed remotely from his home in Connecticut. One was with CVS Health, specifically within their law and regulatory department working with state boards of pharmacy to learn about their various laws and regulations. He also completed a rotation with RxInsider and another at the Hospital of Special Care in Connecticut. 

Advocating for Others

Mazzamurro graduated this past August and while he’s still finalizing details for future employment, he’s eager to see what opportunities exist in various practice settings, including those with patient care components. One thing he is certain of: he wants to utilize this new platform he has to really make a change in healthcare.

“I got into pharmacy to help people,” he said. “And so I’d like to focus more on advocating for patients or practitioners with disabilities. Now having the clinical knowledge and being ‘on the other side of the bed’ gives me the whole, encompassed knowledge.”

“Anything is possible,” he continued. “No matter what it is, whether it’s a car accident for me, or the loss of a parent for someone else, you’re always going to have hardships in life. That doesn’t mean you can’t reach your goals or dreams. You have to be true to yourself and trust the process. Anything can happen.”

Maureen Thielemans is Associate Director of Communications at AACP
and editor of Academic Pharmacy Now.