Teaching Pharmacy Technology: Annamae Anderson’s Path of Perseverance

As a young girl, Annamae Anderson had a clear dream of what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be a race car driver. That lasted until she was about eighteen. She replaced that vision with one of becoming a dancer on Broadway and spent years training for that possibility before stepping into teaching others to take their dance dreams forward. She found herself in that role in all the careers she sampled: cosmetology, dance, photography, hair stylist, personal tutor…maybe that was her truest calling: instructor.

So she was sharing what she knew with others, and it was gratifying. But she needed a larger platform and a specialty to better serve her student audience and their industry. She chose the growing field of Pharmacy Technology and would arrange her education and career building blocks to fit that vision. She would have a classroom and she would touch many lives.

How did your Pharmacy Technology career begin?

I graduated from Carrington College’s Pharmacy Technology program and earned my Associate of Science degree in 2012. Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of Pharmacy settings such as specialty pharmacies like, AIDS healthcare filling meds for AIDS and HIV patients, a mail order pharmacy, handling prior authorizations and San Quentin state Prison’s Pharmacy department. I’ve learned a lot from each one of these companies.

What made you decide to explore teaching possibilities in the pharmaceutical industry?

Throughout my career I networked with people in the pharmacy industry and gained friendships with representatives both in that industry and those, like Carrington College, referring Pharmacy Technology students and graduates for employment consideration. I felt like I could give students the confidence they needed to be in a pharmacy and that I could make sure that whatever is asked of them in that position, they will know how to do it.

What excites you about teaching Carrington College’s Pharmacy Technology program?

Being able to share real life experiences and all the mistakes I’ve made. Everything I’ve learned in the Pharmacy industry, can safely regurgitate that, and give it to my students, so they will not make those same mistakes. To hear them play back to me something I taught them is very rewarding.

What are some of those mistakes?

It’s important to pay attention to every detail you are given, I didn’t always pay attention to the details. I thought I could cut corners and do it MY way, and that was one mistake I made. Placing a label on medication vial: verifying a patient’s name, date of birth and address are essential details. When you’re using a pestle and mortar, don’t bang it! The proper technique is to press and twist for the pressure to break a tablet apart. These are mistakes I’ve made.

Where do you start in your classroom interaction?

Showing students how to work as a team is most important. I split them into groups with a point-person in each group that is the Lead Tech. I might put an over-achiever with someone who is shy and have them both step out of their comfort zones and work with someone they normally wouldn’t. We do icebreakers so that they learn to communicate with each other more easily.

What do you most hope to give your students?

Confidence in being in a pharmacy – and that whatever they are asked to do, they will know exactly how to do it. I see that confidence and the initiative they take and how it has grown from when I first met them. I give them the opportunity to lead, and they take it.

Are there important signs you look for in your students?

Struggle. I’m reading their body language. Someone might be afraid to show their weakness or vulnerability, so they might look at me in a certain way and take that as they may need help, so I’ll go to them.

About half-way through the program, I start to see their leadership skills blossom. It’s when they help the person behind them maybe doing a dosage calculation. I see them get up from their desk to go and show them. All things lead back to teamwork. I remind them “when you’re in a pharmacy a pharmacist is not always available”, and they will have to rely on their coworkers.

How do you know when a student ‘gets it’?

I look for that ‘lightbulb moment’ when their faces look excited and the “GET IT”, then I know we’re ready to move forward.  Sometimes, after class, I ask them individually: ‘What is the most important thing you learned today what is something you teach someone who just walked into class?’

What is one of your students’ favorite moments in class?

Compounding! It’s like following a recipe: taking one medication (tablet), grinding it to powder and mixing it with something else to create a new cream/ointment product. I see their confidence, how excited they are to do something new, and that is rewarding to me.

It reassures me that they are excited by this business, eager to learn and invest themselves in this business. They come to class with a ‘What are we doing today?’ kind of attitude.

What inspires you to teach in the Pharmacy Technology field?

I come from a community where the odds are always stacked against us, however I didn’t let it keep me from striving higher with my career and I didn’t let where I grew up define me, It wasn’t easy for me to be in this industry, as a black woman. I share my experience in the Pharmacy industry with my students to let them know that we are a team, and there are no special treatments, privileges, or relationships.

What influence has your career success had on others in your family?

Seeing me chase my dream gets their wheels turning. Some are inspired by my success while others are challenged by it. I challenge my nieces and nephews to dream big and write out their goals. For example, I ask the question: Where do you want to go in your life?” “Let’s write in your journal right now.” I don’t want them stuck in the mindset of (this is as good as it gets) what they see in their everyday life or where they live can’t get better than that. They don’t have to limit themselves.

I quote Ester Hicks (inspirational speaker): “Things are always working out for you – even when they don’t seem like they are, things are working out for you”.

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