Alumni Spotlight: Justin Livingston, Class of 2018

February 3, 2021

Roseman students have many different stories of why they sought out healthcare careers and why they chose to enroll at Roseman. Justin Livingston, a 2018 graduate of the College of Pharmacy, came to Roseman after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from BYU. Read more about his successful journey into the pharmacy field at Harmon’s!

When did you decide to become a pharmacist? 

I was halfway through my master’s at BYU when both I and my PI mentor, Kim O’Neill, realized I was not cut out for research.  It was my mentor who asked if I had considered pharmacy. I hadn’t, but was intrigued. He then set up a meeting with Dr. Bruce Woolley, who was a Roseman trustee, and the rest is history. The timing worked out great, and I applied right after Christmas break.

What was your Roseman experience like? 

I had a really positive experience and I’m glad that I went to Roseman. The program saved me two years of school, and I believe the education is on a par with the top pharmacy schools nationally. The faculty are superb – they are experts in their fields, and they had teaching components as part of their residency programs, which is really evident. The Roseman model fit my learning style. I’m not a just read and study person so the mastery learning model with the block system works well for my brain.

One thing in particular that shaped my career was the mentoring program that Roseman does with its students. It keeps students on track and guides them, and is so valuable. Dr. Vijay Kale was my mentor, and he works for Harmon’s too as a PRN pharmacist. He did training with my future manager while he was completing his hours for his license. When Dr. Kale asked me if I was working I told him I was looking for employment. He then noted that Harmons was hiring. It was perfect; I was already connected to a professional network.

Dr. McMorris is amazing as well – she was my P2 mentor. She was really helpful because she met me where I was. I had a lot of educational background given my master’s degree so I didn’t need as much hands-on attention, but she helped to shape my career.

I was impressed with how involved the faculty are in the learning process with all students. And not just the faculty, but also by how involved the administration is too. We saw Dean Fannin all the time.

Dr. Park too was always actively reaching out to see how she could help; she’d always let us students at the South Jordan campus know when she was going in town so we could meet up with her. She was very helpful, and proactive in helping. I’m a shy person – I don’t approach people often – but at Roseman I felt that I could because the faculty really cared and were there for us. Roseman faculty don’t teach because they have to even though they really want to do research. They came to Roseman to be teachers, and that type of professor is amazing. I feel that at Roseman the faculty are experts and their goal is to teach. They’re very involved with their students, and very accessible.

My advice to other potential students is: Your attitude is what you get out of it; you must go in expecting the best, like I did, and it was wonderful for me. It’s a great program and I’m so glad I went there.

Were you involved in student groups?

I was quite active – I was president of the Student Alliance which was an umbrella organization for the two major national pharmacy groups – APhA and ASHP. Through that, I had the opportunity to meet students from all over the country. I was proud that I got to represent Roseman and perpetuate the positive image it has. For ACCP, I competed in a national clinical pharmacy challenge and a clinical skills challenge. My team and I got into quarter finals on one challenge and the semifinals on the other.

When did you learn Spanish and how has it helped you professionally? 

My parents “kind of” speak Spanish because my grandparents are immigrants from Mexico. But like many immigrants, they wanted their kids to blend in, so the language wasn’t passed down. I actually learned Spanish in high school, and took it for four years. It has been a huge benefit. There are lots of underserved people in the Latino population because of the language barrier. Knowing Spanish has helped me to serve tons of people and help them understand how their medicine works and why they need to use it. On rotations I was able to function as an ad hoc translator. Utah is getting more diverse, so speaking Spanish is key. I love being the person who can provide that care.

Who are your role models, and who are you a role model for?

At Roseman, there are so many people there who served as role models for me and I’m so grateful for them.

Dr. Park is the epitome of a role model and mentor. I can’t say enough good things about her. She is concerned with every person and so kind and so professional. She has always been there for me when I need her. I actually still don’t know how to study – but she shared her experiences with me and offered some great tips and methods for me to look at. Turns out I was fine, but I have come to trust her with so many things. She was the first one I reached out to when I learned I had received an award. She honestly inspires me in everything that she does.

Another person who is a role model for me is Dr Clarissa Gregory. She has a gift for talking to patients, and has such a genuine nature of kindness, and fundamental understanding of how to communicate with people. She still astounds me. She is able to take something very complex and break it down so simply. She makes the clotting cascade so easy! She also puts so much effort into improving herself and is always asking for feedback on her lectures. She makes me want to be like that for my patients.

Dr. Christenson-Grant is also a role model for me. He inspired me to be of service to any organization I was in. At school,  he was always doing more to help and improve the student organizations – he was very unselfish and gave back all the time.

Dr. Phillip Lawrence – he has such a big heart – and he is so hard working and service-oriented. He is constantly working because he wants to help wherever he is needed. He is always willing to hear students out and validate their thoughts and feelings.

Then there’s Jaime Dinsmore – Jamie is a super star. She does so much for the college behind the scenes, and we can all learn from her. And she does everything without recognition and with so much humility. She is so capable and was right there when Dr. Fannin took over at the college. When I needed something, I knew I could reach out to Jamie and she would help.

There actually are so many others – it’s remarkable how many people were there to help and always did. I was so lucky and blessed to have attended Roseman, which has done so much for the community, for its students, and really for the world.

What would you say to someone who wants to enroll at Roseman? 

The learning model is different, and I loved it. Make sure it’s a good fit for you so you can thrive.

Always be respectful and professional.

Get involved early both to help yourself career-wise and residency-wise, but also just for the ability to give and to be able to learn from each other. People who are involved, including in study groups, create life-long relationships and mutual learning opportunities.

Push yourself and use your free time wisely. If you don’t push yourself, you’re cheating yourself and cheating others too because they may need your perspective. My microbiology background let me help others when they needed it. Plus, when I helped others, it made me learn everything better as I was teaching it. If you’re doing well, then help others who are struggling. That includes classmates with emotional stress – just help them. We are all part of this brotherhood and sisterhood of pharmacy. That’s what you should do in your education and in your career as well.

Don’t binge and purge. Never say “That was last block.” If that ever comes out of your mouth, you’re doing it wrong. The point is not to learn individual blocks, but to learn everything. It’s a continuum – all one comprehensive, immersive experience.

Current responsibilities? 

I’m a retail pharmacist at a grocery store, but Harmon’s also does specialty pharmacy medications. I help to provide counseling on the specialty meds – helping patients understand how to access and use their meds appropriately. Harmons also started offering point of care clinical services like self-administered hormonal contraception, screenings for UTIs etc. I see patients and evaluate them with a collaborative practice. It’s very common now, and more people are coming to the pharmacy rather than having to visit a doctor because of COVID.

My position is more unique than most retail pharmacists’. I do provide a significant amount of counseling to my patients. That is not always an option for many pharmacists, who are overworked or hidden in the back of the pharmacy. I am there at the pick-up window. A lot of patients now know me, and they ask me anything and everything regarding not just their medication but health in general. My supervisor, Greg Jones, stresses that we counsel every patient every time. I take that above and beyond. It’s about the people; if they feel that investment, it makes it easier for them to understand the medication and how to use the meds appropriately. They know it’s not about sales; they trust you as a pharmacist and know that you want the best for them. Many pharmacists would love to do this, but not many get this opportunity. Every single day I do, and I love it.

COVID has affected my store to a certain degree, including that we will be administering vaccines. I also signed up to help with the CVS effort to offer vaccinations through assisted care and assisted living facilities. I’m ready to go to help to fight this disease.

You received an impressive professional award recently – can you tell us about it?

Yes, I received the Distinguished Young Pharmacist Award from Pharmacist’s Mutual after being nominated by the Utah Pharmacists’ Association. I’m just two years out of practice – I didn’t know anything about this award at first. I got an email from Adam Jones, the director of the Utah Pharmacy Association, informing me that I received this award. It was created to encourage new pharmacists to be involved in their communities and to serve them. It recognizes contributions to community, professional associations, and professional practice. Each state selects one pharmacist with ten or less years of service to receive the award. “I was excited when I learned I had won it, but didn’t really know the importance of it until the convention (which was virtual). I am humbled and grateful for this huge honor.”

What will the future bring for you? 

I hope – though of course anything can happen given this year because of COVID  – that I’m still exactly where I am now. I love my West Valley store, techs, patients, co-workers, and Harmons. We all respect and care about each other, and I would love to still have this ten years from now. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to grow or change, of course! But I know wherever I am, I will be doing my best.

Not that you have lots of free time, but do you have any hobbies or favorite causes 

I didn’t have any for a long time because of all the years I dedicated to education. But, because of COVID, I taught myself to sew because there were no face masks available. Many of my patients are elderly so they needed masks, so I made some. I love being able to create something. And now I’ve started quilting – by hand. It’s a lot of work but I think at the same time, for people who know what it takes – it’s a huge gesture to get a quilt from someone. Hours and hours of work. I love helping people, legitimately – I will drop everything and say Let’s go!

Would you like to share some family information and thank anyone? 

My two sons are my inspiration. To my 2 ½ year old, I’m his hero. He inspires me to want to be better. He’s such a happy boy and so smart. My other son is a few months old. Together, they make me want to be a good dad and a good person.

I’m so grateful for the Utah Pharmacists’ Association and for their nomination of me. And I so appreciate Harmons – they’ve been so wonderful to me – and placed me in a spot that I’m so happy to be in. Greg Jones is a great boss and I’m grateful to him.

I’m grateful to Roseman too and BUY as well – they’ve given me the chance to grow through education over the past 13 years, which is invaluable. Plus, through my universities I’m grateful for the people I’ve met, friends I’ve made, and the skills I’ve acquired.

Many thanks to my preceptors – Sheb Davie, Dan Williams, Jared Young, Chad Cowdell – all who helped and taught me and pushed me. With their leadership and guidance and support I was able to step out of my shy shell to make an impact.

Without my technicians, and my intern, I would not be able to do what I do, and they deserve to be recognized all day, every day. They free me up so I can counsel patients or do whatever else I need to do. They are so capable and knowledgeable and selfless in what they do. Technicians make the pharmacy world run! We have different focuses and backgrounds, but I appreciate so sincerely all the work they do every day.