Spotlight on New Faculty — An interview with Rachel Rivera


Interview by Catherine Krawiec
Photo by W. Scott Giglio 
After spending nearly a decade working with Native Americans all over the country, as a Commander in the United States Public Health Service, Rachel Rivera joins the faculty in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy. She brings broad experience and knowledge to the classroom.
Headshot-RiveraFDU: Tell us about your new position…
Rachel Rivera: I am a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the new School of Pharmacy.  As a clinical professor, I provide didactic teaching in the classroom but also provide experiential education to our students in intermediate and advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences. While on clinical rotation, students learn to translate book knowledge into patient-centered care under the direction of a licensed clinical pharmacist. I am a board certified in Ambulatory Care and that is my focus with students.  We use the platform of generalized education in diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart failure, obesity, asthma, COPD and health literacy and apply it to actual patients.  
FDU: How did you become interested in this field?
RR: In high school, I was very interested in biology and chemistry and I wanted to apply that passion to people's lives.  My uncle was in pharmacy school at Long Island University at the time and he encouraged me to pursue pharmacy.  I immediately sought a position as a pharmacy technician at a local CVS/pharmacy and fell in love instantaneously.  I thought I'd continue with retail pharmacy, the traditional pharmacist's role, but really felt compelled to work with underserved populations. I spend the first 9 years after graduation working with Native Americans and federal inmates within the care of the United States Public Health Service across the country.
FDU: What is something that you would like to contribute to FDU?
RR: As a retired Commander of the United States Public Health Service (the equivalent to the Army and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel), I would like to contribute my knowledge of pharmaceutical care provided to underserved populations and to veterans of our uniformed services.  I've been blessed to have worked with Native Americans, female and male federal offenders and psychiatric patients.  I've had the privilege to receive my medical care and interact with soldiers at two military hospitals.  All these patients can be our neighbors and colleagues and it's imperative that they receive the care that is proven to improve quality of life and decrease morbidity and mortality.  Addressing patients' culture (ethnic, military service, prior imprisonment) and beliefs when treating them for current ailments is at the crux of establishing a mutually respectful relationship that can improve care.
 FDU: What is something that you hope your students will take away from your class?
RR: I'd like our students to take away a sense of service once they have completed my class or clinical rotation.  Our students will be entering the field of pharmacy at an exciting time.  We are steps away from national provider status; we have attained specialization in various fields including pharmacotherapy, nutrition, psychiatry, ambulatory care, and oncology; we immunize; we provide medication therapy management.  Our graduates will be at the forefront of serving patients of various ages from pediatrics to geriatrics, socioeconomic status, and health literacy status.  Our graduates will impact how medications are used to improve care and reduce adverse events. I hope they excel the field into a new paradigm that is for the better of the American people.
FDU: What is one piece of advice you can give to your new students?
RR: “You are the rate limiting step.” Pharmacy has such a vast array of niches that our students can fill.  While it seems schools of pharmacy are graduating so many more students per year than even 20 years ago, there are still new positions to pursue and new roads to discover.  Our students will not be limited by knowledge or experience because they will have acquired that before graduating.  They will only be limited by the limits they put on themselves regarding how great they can become and the difference they can make if they just put the work in.