Alumni Spotlight: Tova Berman, PharmD
Touro College of Pharmacy Alum Finding Fulfillment Through Helping People in Need
Tova Berman, PharmD, received her Doctor of Pharmacy in May 2017. After graduation, she matched to a postgraduate residency at a community hospital in Medford, Massachusetts that serves the local population. After completing her PGY-1 she became a clinical pharmacist at a not-for-profit healthcare organization in Boston, where today she is thriving in her job, serving a population dependent on Medicaid and Medicare for their needs.
How did you become interested in pharmacy? Why did you choose Touro?
I always had an academic interest in the sciences and in healthcare. After many months of considering various fields, someone suggested to me, ‘What about pharmacy?’ I did some research, shadowed pharmacists, and after much deliberation decided it was the right path for me. I am a “people person” and pharmacy combined my academic interest in science with my ability to work with people. I was already living in New York, so Touro was geographically appealing. I also appreciated the number and variety of rotations offered as well as the mission to work with an underserved patient population in New York City.
How did Touro influence your career path?
The school had a variety of activities on campus, including guest speakers, that provided opportunities to learn about different career paths. I was pretty sure I wanted a residency and to become a clinical pharmacist interacting with people on a daily basis. Touro exposed us to the variety of career options, and I benefitted from that.
Tell us about your residency experience as a PGY-1.
I completed my residency at Melrose Wakefield Healthcare (MWH) in Medford, MA. By then I had moved to Boston, where my husband was doing his medical residency. The hospital has a maximum occupancy of about 200 patients and offers personalized services for the local community. Working in a community hospital, I was able to develop relationships with many of the doctors and nurses – in addition to many of the patients. I worked on the floors reviewing patients’ medications, participated in community health fairs, screening and counseling patients. Going out into the community was one of the unique aspects of working at this type of hospital, which I really enjoyed, and it definitely laid the groundwork for my subsequent career choice. The community hospital setting also provided a better work-life balance than I would have expected to find at a large academic hospital. At the time, I had an 18-month-old baby and I wanted to be able to put him to bed at night. I had to work late some evenings and many Sundays, but it was manageable. My residency also allowed me to teach, mentor and precept pharmacy students on rotation as an adjunct professor of pharmacy practice at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, which I enjoyed very much.
What are you doing in your current job and what do you like about it?
I am a clinical pharmacist at Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) in Boston. I was hired to create a pharmacy home visiting program and provide education for other clinicians there. CCA is a not-for-profit, healthcare organization serving people who are dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare services. The members have complex medical, behavioral health and social needs. Currently, my role is to make home visits to members at high risk for admission and readmission to the hospital. I review their meds with them, help with adherence, and problem-solve to see if there is any other ways I can help. Part of my job is also serving as an educational resource to doctors, physician assistants, social workers, nurses and other clinicians about medications and their side effects. The clinical pharmacy program is awesome, and the opportunity to develop a new program has been a wonderful experience. I like helping people and at the end of day, I feel like I am really doing something that matters. When I walk out of a person’s home, I feel like I have made a difference in a very concrete way.
How did TCOP and your PGY-1 prepare you for what you are doing now?
In pharmacy school, I counseled people from the community who brought their medications to “Brown Bag Sessions” and to health fairs in Harlem, which furthered my interest in the field and helped me practice skills that I use every day. During residency, I was always interested in transitions of care. When patients are moving in and out of the hospital, it is a time of need for many of them, and there are not always a lot of resources to help – so we are definitely vital in filling those gaps. During residency, I did rotations in transitions of care and always enjoyed those experiences because it is very hands-on work. I also did research on the impact of pharmacist visits on readmission rates, which will be published this summer. I am very excited to be able to continue this type of work at CCA and my experiences at MWH and Touro helped prepare me. Transitions of care is a growing field especially since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, under which hospitals are penalized when patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge. Pharmacists in this fieldwork to figure out the best way to handle meds and provide good continuity of care so patients stay healthy and out of the hospital. This work typically involves a multidisciplinary team including doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and social workers.
Long–term, what are your plans? What advice do you have for future pharmacists?
I am very happy in my current role and hope to continue this work while also continuing to strike a work-life balance. It’s quite busy but extremely rewarding at the same time. My advice is to always keep moving forward, though there will be many bumps in the road. For me, staying organized and ahead with my schoolwork helped me manage my time. If you are a step ahead of the game, you won’t fall behind when you hit those bumps. Also, having support from family and friends is tremendously helpful. Throughout my time at Touro and beyond, I’ve had the full support of my husband and parents, in particular, who always helped push me forward and served as a springboard for my next steps.