A Pharmacist's Passion for Public Health

Touro College of Pharmacy Alumna Lt. Cmdr. Colleen Kim's Journey from the Classroom to the Covid Frontlines

April 16, 2024
Colleen Kim
Lieutenant Commander Colleen Kim

Lieutenant Commander Colleen Kim, PharmD, Touro College of Pharmacy Class of 2015, commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, completed a six-week rotation with the CDC and worked the front lines during COVID-19.

How did you become interested in a career in pharmacy?

I had a strong desire to make a positive impact on people's lives. Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry constantly advances with drug research, development and innovative therapies. I became interested in the opportunity to be a part of a dynamic field that combines with my scientific background.

Why did you choose Touro?

I chose Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP) for two main reasons. Firstly, I was drawn to the College's strong dedication to public health and community service, and teaching students about the pharmacist's role in promoting public health and reducing health disparities. This aligns with my passion for making a positive impact in underserved communities. Secondly, the College's location, at the time in Harlem, N.Y., caught my attention.

What is your current position, and can you describe a day in your life on the job?

I am a pharmacy officer (Lieutenant Commander) in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). I serve as a regulatory officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On a typical day, I play a role in the agency’s mission to protect public health by reviewing documents and collecting evidence to make informed admissibility decisions of imported products based on compliance with FDA regulations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, my responsibilities included reviewing entry documents of drugs, research products, vaccine products and medical devices related to COVID-19. My job was to make admissibility decisions for products under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) during the public health emergency. Additionally, I have been deployed to work on the front lines of public health emergencies. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was deployed for a six-week mission as a vaccinator at the White House COVID-19 Vaccination Center in Rochester, N.Y. During this assignment, our team administered over 600,000 vaccinations to the citizens of New York.

What are some of the challenges, and what do you like about it?

Being a PHS officer has its challenges, such as juggling dual responsibilities and being away from my family during deployments. However, what I love about it is the abundance of opportunities to serve and learn. I find fulfillment in making a meaningful impact on public health and being surrounded by a dedicated team. Each day brings new learning experiences, and the diverse nature of the work allows me to grow professionally. Despite the challenges, the sense of fulfillment and the chance to contribute to public health make it a rewarding position.

How did TCOP prepare you for your professional role?

TCOP played a vital role in preparing me. I learned about the importance of pharmacists in public health and reducing health disparities. Effective communication and education to promote medication safety and improve overall health were emphasized. Numerous hands-on opportunities that allowed me to apply what I learned in real-life situations were provided. I participated in training programs, internships and conferences on HIV/AIDS, prescription drug use and other public health topics. These experiences, along with diverse rotations and involvement in student organizations, helped me actively serve the community and prepared me for my role as a pharmacy officer of the USPHS.

In summary, Touro College of Pharmacy equipped me with the necessary knowledge, skills and practical experiences to excel in my professional role, focusing on public health and community service.