When Nathan Chandler enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy, he knew he wanted to someday practice in a rural setting.
Four years and one doctorate of pharmacy degree later, the Wisconsin native just recently began the next chapter of his life in Grand Marais, Minnesota; population 1,351.
We recently caught up with the 2011 graduate to learn why he chose to pursue a career practicing rural pharmacy, the career prep he received from the U of M and more.
Where are you from, and why did you choose rural pharmacy?
NC: I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, in a town called Bruce, which has a population of under 800.
One thing I really like about small towns is that they allow you to get to know your patients. It’s easier to develop relationships in smaller towns, and as a pharmacist I hope to connect with people so they’ll learn to trust me.
How has the U of M’s College of Pharmacy prepared you to serve small towns?
NC: One of my most memorable experiences actually happened before classes even started. During orientation, my classmates and I split into small groups and took field trips to rural areas in Northern Minnesota. We spent time with local business owners, toured hospitals and pharmacies, and visited nursing homes.
In addition, our rotations in years three and four allowed us to get out and experience rural Minnesota. All students need to spend at least one of their eight rotation blocks at a site outside the Duluth or Twin Cities metro areas to experience pharmacy practices in greater Minnesota. For me, my experiences during those rotations solidified my desire to practice in a rural setting.
Where are you practicing now?
NC: Last fall I was approached by a former preceptor in Brainerd. I was honored to receive an offer for a pharmacist position in far northern Minnesota at one of their independent pharmacy locations. Arrowhead Pharmacy, which is located in Grand Marais, provides pharmacy services to the entire county. We serve the local clinic, a nursing home, the Indian health service and retail stores.
Describe the importance of bringing pharmacy to small towns.
NC: When I was younger, I saw the pharmacy in my hometown close down. When that happened, my friends and family were forced to travel a significant distance to get their medications. It put a huge burden on them, especially in the middle of winter, because it was before the time when prescriptions could be mailed. Sometimes they would go days without their medication. Back then, I didn’t understand what kind of an impact that had, but now I understand the problems it caused them.
In addition to the access issue, it’s also important to educate our patients face-to-face. While we’re not physicians, we can offer solid advice and help optimize medication use. Without a pharmacy, there’s a disconnect between recommending care and actually providing it.
In my eyes, pharmacists fill a critical need in rural areas.
--- Emily Jensen