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Serving Service

Student researcher Alison Dailey discovered her calling to help veterans.

Ohio Northern University’s College of Pharmacy has a well-earned reputation for producing talented, capable professionals who not only hit the ground running from the first day on the job, but also do so at a high level. The University’s recently released placement rate for pharmacy graduates six months removed from graduation is a staggering 98 percent. In short, ONU pharmacy graduates are in demand and have options.

So to meet a pharmacy student on the cusp of graduation who is completely uninterested in using her diploma as a golden ticket to an unknown future is interesting. Especially when you find out why.

“I want to stay with the VA my entire career. I don’t ever want to go anywhere else,” says Alison Dailey, a sixth-year pharmacy student from Parma, Ohio.

The VA she speaks of refers to the United States’ Department of Veterans Affairs —specifically the Veteran’s Health Administration, home to the nation’s largest integrated health care system of 152 medical centers. After volunteering at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center one summer, Dailey was accepted to the center’s Pharmacy Student Internship Program, a highly selective program that accepts just four students per grade level each semester.

It’s one of the best programs you can be accepted to because it has a really well-rounded curriculum,” she says. “What’s great about it is that interns aren’t just there to fill prescriptions all day. We work directly with patients for things like medication reconciliation and lipid clinics.

During her internship, Dailey had an opportunity to spend time with psychiatry residents at Louis Stokes. A double major in pharmacy and psychology, at ONU she was a student researcher in Dr. Philip Zoladz’s National Institute of Health-funded laboratory that is seeking to identify root causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At the VA, she saw first-hand how her research interest in psychology and her passion for pharmacy could directly align. She now plans to do a year of residency in the VA system after she graduates with her PharmD to specialize in psychiatry.

“I originally got involved with the psychology research because it was fun and I thought it would boost my GPA,” says Dailey. “But it really helped me narrow down what I want to do with my career.”

Dailey isn’t a veteran herself, nor does she come from a military family, yet she has always had tremendous respect for the military. So when she says she doesn’t ever want to leave the VA, it’s not about a workplace. It’s about her commitment to serving those who serve us.

She remembers the day that she was shadowing one of the psychiatric pharmacy residents and met a patient who had been admitted because of a suicide attempt. That is when she knew that she could make a real difference.

In that moment, our sole job is to make sure that what he wanted to do didn’t happen. We have to be able to prevent it from happening,” she says. “It’s a cry for help, and I think is just so important because no one should have to scream out for help that much. We should be helping those that served us and our country.

Dailey says that if she can just help one veteran then everything she has worked for will have been worth it. She is as sincere as she is modest. Dailey’s combination of talent, temperament and skill makes her as ideal a candidate for psychiatric pharmacy as anyone the VA could ever hope to employ. She won’t help one veteran. She’ll likely help hundreds or even thousands during her career.

This year —her last in the PharmD program at ONU— Dailey is working at nine different locations for one month at a time. While many students use these rotations to explore the country, she is doing them all in three hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, so she can continue working at Louis Stokes one weekend each month. So, yes, it is interesting that she’s declining to spend January in California or February in Florida, but there’s actually a much better word for it…