MOMENT OF DECISION: Elie Haddad’s Journey to Teaching at Carrington’s Pharmacy Technology Program

On July 4th, 2010, Elie Haddad was passing through passport control in the San Francisco airport coming from Beirut, Lebanon, something he did countless times as a student finishing his pharmacy degree at the Lebanese American University. A customs officer stopped him and instructed that he must either apply for US citizenship or give up his green card. He could no longer go back and forth as easily as he had before as a native of Lebanon. He had to decide whether to live in one country over another. Elie was born and raised in Lebanon but arrived in San Francisco when he was 17 years old. This was a critical and decisive moment in Elie’s life. In the end, Elie decided to make his life in the United States. Seven years later, he is a faculty member in the Pharmacy Technology program at Carrington’s Sacramento campus. This is his story.

How did you decide to enter the Pharmacy Technology field?

I was always interested in chemistry and in helping people manage their pain. I was intrigued that just taking a small pill would make you feel better!

Where did you study and where did you start working?

I am a biochemist and earned my degree at the University of San Francisco. The first company where I worked was Affymetrix, a branch of Bayer, in San Carlos, making peptides and medicinal drugs.  I did not like my job, so I decided to apply to Pharmacy school in Beirut, Lebanon at Lebanese American University.

When customs stopped you from returning to Lebanon, what did you do?

I had been a teacher assistant earlier during my USF studies in the nursing program to help students with chemistry. So when I decided to stay in the US, I applied and got my first teaching job at another vocational school in Hayward.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

It’s really when you see the students start to get it. You explain something and it clicks, makes sense to them, and when you see them smile you can tell they feel like a million dollars. I didn’t know until I started teaching that I could actually help them discover themselves. Sometimes you really have to stick with a student. I had one student who had not been accepted into Pharmacy school; she had been rejected by 20 universities.  She was recommended to the Pharmacy Technology program at SJVC. She wasn’t convinced she should go to Pharma Tech. I said if you get this Pharmacy tech license you can reapply to Pharmacy School, and you’ll have a greater chance of getting in. She really gave me a hard time at first, but I kept encouraging her to stick with it. She eventually graduated from here and was accepted into Pharmacy School; she invited me to her graduation as a thank you.

What are the externships like in Pharmacy Tech? How do they differ from other medical programs?

Each student has to do 240 hours (6 weeks) of externship. I get involved by helping match the student to the externship site, depending on their background; the career services advisor also helps get the student placed. In Pharma Tech, there are three different areas of externship which vary greatly: there are retail pharmacies, mail order pharmacies (where you don’t meet the patients) and there’s an externship with Folsom Prison Hospital. Some require you to be bilingual.

I understand if you’re genuinely interested in math, anatomy, physiology and health care, Pharmacy Technician is a good area to explore a career. But what are the characteristics of a person who succeeds in Pharmacy Tech?

You must want to do your best to help people, you must be patient. You also need to have to be able to read, comprehend, and memorize quickly. That takes a certain tenacity when figuring out a prescription; and it’s good to be curious about what the patient really needs.

What are some of the most popular skills students learn?

Most students love compounding; that’s making individual capsules, say 800mg of Advil. They also learn how to make lip balm and hand sanitizers too. And I teach them how to make lollipops for those who have ADHD.

What would you say about Pharmacy Tech to a prospective student who is interested in the medical field but can’t decide which program to take?

Being a pharmacologist will make a big difference in people’s lives. Academically, it’s also an excellent building block for a future nursing degree.

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