Goodbye Google, Hello Pharmacy School
Mersal Danai Leaves Silicon Valley for Touro College of Pharmacy
Most people would be satisfied with a promising position at Google, but Mersal Danai isn’t like most people. After graduating from the University of California-Berkley with a degree in French, Danai landed a coveted position with the internet giant.
“It was nice,” recalled Danai, who was a project manager for the company from 2018-2020. “But sometimes you wonder: why am I doing this? I loved Google and it was fun to work in a team and the perks and benefits Google provides are wonderful, but I wasn’t feeling any joy or fulfillment. It was just work.”
Feeling unfulfilled, Danai recalled her experience in college. She had briefly been a pre-med student and shadowed several medical professionals. Of all the healthcare providers she observed, the pharmacists seemed the happiest; and many of them were graduates of Touro California’s College of Pharmacy. “They were the most engaged,” said Danai. “I shadowed everyone—from surgeons to podiatrists and I heard the pros and cons of every profession, but pharmacy was the most attractive to me. This was a unique profession geared towards exactly what I wanted.”
Danai returned to her alma mater in 2020 to finish up her prerequisites to apply to pharmacy school. A year later, a recruiter from Google called her and convinced her to sign back on to a different team which she did for another year before moving to New York to join Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP). “I was very attracted to Touro because of the public health aspect,” said Danai. “In the interviews I did with members of the school and through the website I appreciated Touro’s community-based work. One thing I love about pharmacy is how unique it is—you can’t get bored, since there is so much to do, whether it’s working in retail, industry, or the clinic. I get bored really easily. Additionally, I’ve always been someone who’s attracted to community-based programs. I’m a first generation American and we’ve always asked how we can help our community and I’m attracted to the idea of going out into the city to help others and adopting a whole new community.”
Moving to New York was also a tough decision. Danai’s family is Afghan and she’s part of California’s close-knit Afghani community.
“A lot of people don’t push to leave the Bay Area,” related Danai. “A lot of my female cousins and members of our mosque have been reaching out to see what it’s like to move to a different state. None of my siblings ever left and we’re all quite close, but I was excited for the adventure.”
As for her first experiences in New York, Danai said that the stereotypes she heard about New York don’t ring true. “It’s been an adjustment,” admitted Danai. “Everyone said that no one in New York City smiles, but I don’t think that’s true. I smile and everyone smiles back.”
As for her future plans with a Pharm.D. degree in hand, Danai said she wants to be a role-model for women in her Afghani community, though as for the particulars of her career, she’s left that open.
“I change my mind all the time,” laughed Danai. “You can do so much. I read about how pharmacists can have an impact creating drugs in the oncology field or how they can help combat diabetes; or how they can work clinically with patients one-on-one; the field is so large; you can have an impact on any sector you go into.”