Bryan Sackey, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP, BCPP
South Texas Veterans Healthcare System
As I stood in the long, daunting hallway full of the various pharmacy organization booths, I was immediately overwhelmed with the seemingly endless options of ways to get involved as a first-year pharmacy student ready to take on the world. Coming into my first year of pharmacy school at Howard University, I knew very early that student organization involvement would be instrumental in my developing into the provider I aspired to be. The question was, which direction do I go?
Entering pharmacy school, psychiatric practice had always been a personal interest of mine, however, I never imagined it to be a career I would pursue within the realm of pharmacy. Psychiatric care felt like a perfect balance of science and art enveloped in truly compassionate patient care. As a minority, I was particularly concerned with the mental health disparities in underrepresented communities, which has been notoriously driven by the stigmas surrounding these conditions.1-2 According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of caucasians.1
Discovery of CPNP as a student provided an excellent platform for me to exercise this passion. Though my professional interests fluctuated from various areas to include infectious disease and cardiology, psychiatry seemed to play a common theme in each stage of my career path despite my own volition. In some ways, it almost felt like mental health was choosing me. During pharmacy school, my faculty mentor happened to be the sole psychiatry PharmD provider in the college and provided me opportunities to serve as student aid for his course along with engagement in mental health research. As a student, I was always drawn to the various CPNP outreach opportunities to include the annual Alzheimer’s walk, mental health booths in the senior community centers, and Mental Health awareness seminars. Unfortunately, the early indecisiveness in the career path I wanted to pursue inhibited my ability to take full advantage of the many opportunities CPNP provides on the national level for students. I watched as my colleagues obtained research grants and engaged with the professional mental health community at CPNP annual conferences. It wasn’t until a chance opportunity to rotate at the FDA’s Psychiatric and Neurology department as a 4th year student that I realized how impactful pharmacists can be in all aspect of psychiatric care.
Entering my PGY-1 year at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs, psychiatry was at the forefront of my career interest, however, I continued to explore other career options. Infectious disease, particularly HIV care, was still a big interest of mine and I was provided opportunities to rotate in such clinics. One thing that immediately stood out was the strong influence of mental health and how it presented as a significant barrier to the care of these patients. During patient interactions, I found myself addressing several psychiatric comorbidities and incorporating the psychologist in their care. Once again, it felt like psychiatry was a guest theme pushing for a starting role in my career. During my PGY-1 tenure, my mentor happened to be a psychiatric PharmD (surprise) and a proud member of CPNP. I was able to witness the many ways pharmacists can get involved with the organization including leadership development through committee involvement, dissemination of insightful knowledge through research and publications in the peer review journals (i.e., Mental Health Clinician), and networking opportunities with mental health enthusiasts across the nation. More importantly, I was able to see how such engagement translated to truly impactful patient care. I was convinced that mental health was a career path destined for me as I pursued a PGY-2 in psychiatry.
Currently, I serve as an outpatient mental health provider at the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System and truly enjoy every aspect of my practice. Despite the early indecisiveness in the career path I wanted to pursue, I am happy to settle into a practice that served the most purpose for me. Through the continual support of CPNP, I was able to successfully obtain my BCPP certification and practice at the top of license. The pivotal role CPNP played in my journey to a psychiatric pharmacist inspired me to give back to the organization. I have been afforded the opportunity to contribute to the body of literature in the Mental Health Clinician along with service on the Student Committee. Through these efforts, I hope to also inspire future PharmDs who endeavor to pursue this rewarding career path.