A Q&A with Katherin (Keesling) Ragan, College of Pharmacy, Class of 2017

Q: Since graduation, what have you been doing?

A: After I graduated from Roseman, I became a resident at Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, Ohio. It was an amazing and eye opening experience for me to work in an incredible hospital in an environment that was completely foreign to me. I wanted to experience what culture and healthcare was like in a more rural setting. Growing up in an area with a population of several million, it was an extreme shift to provide healthcare in a city of 37,000, but this experience made me a better, more thoughtful healthcare provider.  After completing my residency, I joined the Cleveland Clinic Oncology Department.

Q: What is your current position, and how are you using your degree from Roseman?

A: I currently work at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center and helped develop a new service for them within gynecological oncology. It was a branch of oncology that has never had a pharmacist presence and I was able to utilize my experiences to help construct a foundation for integrating pharmacy into the workflow. I have a dual role within Taussig. I work on the inpatient side of the hospital with the gynecological oncology/women’s health team as a unit based pharmacist, as well as, on the outpatient side in the infusion center and clinic. I am using the degree I received at Roseman to educate patients, work with an interdisciplinary team of healthcare providers, give presentations, teach students, and anything else that I feel like I can contribute, whether in a professional or community setting.

Q: Does your experience thus far in your profession align with what your perceptions of it were when you were a student?

A: Honestly, as a student, I don’t think I had fully grasped the opportunities that would be available to me as a pharmacist. Having gone through the experiences of a student, and now being on the other end, as a pharmacist, I always tell students, “be your own advocate”. Opportunities do not usually just fall into your lap, they need to be actively sought out.  Pursue experiences to broaden your capabilities. With new experiences and skills, the perception of the role of pharmacy can change because you have a better understanding of what you are able to contribute to the profession. I think as a student, I had a more rigid idea of what a pharmacist could do, but now, in practice, I realize how malleable this profession can be if I’m willing to go beyond the status quo.

Q: Aside from getting your degree, were there particular facets of your Roseman education that you found relevant and applicable to your life now?

A: My education at Roseman gave me the tools to think critically in a healthcare setting. We didn’t just learn the “what”, but also the “why” and “how”. In my position, I work with many medical residents that ask for drug recommendations; however, since these are still budding physicians, often times, just giving a recommendation is not enough. They want to know the reasoning behind your choice so they can better understand it and use this knowledge in future situations. Roseman taught me how to not just spout out an answer but also how to be able to explain it.

Q: What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a PharmD?

A: It is an extremely versatile degree. Often times, there is one image that comes to mind when someone thinks about what a pharmacist does; however, depending on what you want to do and how you pursue it, a PharmD can be used in various fields. I know pharmacists that work in retail settings, research settings, at the FDA, as professors, military, hospital, government, etc. I would advise them to consider what they ultimately want to achieve with a PharmD and aggressively pursue it. You may hear a lot of “no’s” along the way, I know I did, but that shouldn’t be an end point. Every “no” should be taken as a learning experience and allow you to discover an alternate path to achieving your goals.

Q: What was your favorite part of the Roseman experience?

A: My favorite part of the Roseman experience was the opportunities that were available to me. Roseman allowed me the opportunity to help create an international rotation, do research, come to the Cleveland Clinic to do my clinical rotations, and have amazing mentors. The professors and administrators at Roseman were always encouraging. I think the most underutilized asset by students is the staff. You have your assigned mentor, but you also have the entire school of professors and administrator that you can reach out to and foster amazing relationships. There were quite a few times when I would reach out to a professor to see if they were available to express my concerns, not just academically but also professionally, or even personally. When you cultivate a relationship with people who genuinely want you to succeed, it helps motivate you to tackle things that you didn’t think would be achievable.

Q: What was your least favorite part of the Roseman experience?

A: Exams. Is that too “on the nose”? I don’t sleep well before exams so every other Thursday I would pull an all-nighter before coming in on Friday for the exam. I suppose exams are not a Roseman specific experience, but that was my least favorite. If I had to narrow it down to a specific Roseman experience that was my least favorite, it would be that we went from a paper format of the exams our first year to an electronic format the second. There was a learning curve involved with the change in format since we had each found a method of taking an exam on paper that was most conducive to us and the electronic examination program was not the most intuitive. So, that added a level of stress while taking exams my second year, but overall, it was an experience that taught us to be able to conform to changes; something you have to be able to do in a healthcare setting, because guidelines are always changing, protocols are always changing, software is constantly changing and being updated. It was just another life experience that taught you to adapt.

Q:  What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: There are always patient educations and meetings to go to during the week but generally my day starts at 0700 AM. I usually see which patients I have and review their charts before going to rounds or tumor board. Tumor board is where the interdisciplinary team sits and discusses difficult cases and how the patients’ treatment should be approached. I review orders that are put through by the provider to make sure medications are being ordered for the correct reason and dose. If needed, I will build an order for a patient that is supposed to receive chemotherapy and send it to the physician for signature. I am often paged for questions about chemotherapy, or treatment in general. On weeks that I am on-call, I may be paged at home to help rectify a problem with a patient’s treatment. A great thing about being able to help create a new service it is completely moldable. You can see where there are opportunities for improvement and help bridge those gaps. I genuinely love the field I am in and am very grateful to everyone who has seen potential in me, especially my mentors along the way that helped lead me to this amazing career.

Meet Katherin (Keesling) Ragan in person as she returns to Roseman University to present “Mission Ghana–How a medical mission abroad changed lives”, March 14th, at 5:30 pm on the Summerlin Campus.

Special thanks to Katherin Keesling for her time, commitment, and passion.

Vanessa Maniago
Special Advisor to the President
Roseman University of Health Sciences