Pharmacist: Chemist with a handicap aka From the Charles University into the World
Here I am with yet another post within the topic "pharmacy and overseas". What is the foreign prestige of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Charles University in Prague? Does a graduate have a chance to find a job outside of the Czech Republic? Again, a broad topic which is being looked at from the perspective of a scientist.
In the Czech Republic, there are two faculties of pharmacy. One in Hradec Králové and the other one in Brno. The firstly mentioned belongs to the Charles University. Being a fresh grammar school graduate, I was accepted by both faculties back in 2006 after completing the entry examinations. I did not have to think about which to pick up too much. Charles University was a clear choice since the name of the institution "counts for something". At least in the Czech Republic.
Every year, several rankings of the "best universities" are released. (For instance link1 or link2, but there are much more. Just find out by typing "top world universities" or a similar entry to Google search.) To be honest, I do not really fancy them. The results are based on different criteria and also vary a chart to chart. On the top places, however, you can almost always find universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, MIT, Caltech, Harvard, Yale… Charles University, if it is enlisted at all, is usually ranked around 300th place. I think that it does not tell us much, actually. In my opinion, if you do not study at one of the really prestigious universities as one of those mentioned above, it becomes close to irrelevant whether you graduate from Stockholm University or Charles University.
I cannot really say whether the employers of pharmacists abroad share my opinion on the university rankings. However, with the regard to science, it usually works as I have written above. I can demonstrate it on my current position of a PhD student/employee of a research institute. My supervisor/boss has never been really interested in what university I have graduated from. Of course he knew, I studied pharmacy. If I had studied law, I wouldn't have most likely gotten a job within analytical chemistry. But it was not significantly important for him where I gained the pharmaceutical education. Although, I am sure that a Harvard mention in my CV would have made a great impression. :-) He wanted to know more about my motivation, what drives me towards science. He wanted to know how I can handle my work, not only from the professional point of view, but more importantly wanted to know about my personal approach. That was what mattered.
During our pharmaceutical studies, we'd heard many times that as pharmacists, we can work in many different fields (of science) after graduation: analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology... Indeed, we went through all these and many other biological and chemical disciplines. However, it must not be forgotten that once finished, you are not a biochemist nor a molecular biologist. You are a pharmacist! I do not deny you can do science in any of those fields you studied on the way to the degree from pharmacy. But there will be a lot new to learn! Being a pharmacist means having a unique combination of medical and chemical education. A pharmacists knows a lot about chemistry/biology and has also a good portion of medical knowledge. But a pharmacist could never been allowed to carry out a surgery.
I can feel it at my work nowadays. I learn new stuff almost every day. Things which I would be more skilled at after completing a specialized chemistry-based education. For instance many things from statistics and mathematics. I am sure that the chemists study in much more detail. Among those people who contact me due to pharmacy, there is every now and then someone who wants to do research. I always wonder, what motivates them to study pharmacy instead of pure physics or chemistry.
Even I was asked many times whether I would had chosen chemistry instead of pharmacy, if I'd had the possibility again. I do not have to think about the answer. It is "No, I wouldn't had!" Pharmacy is so to say a matter of my heart and I am happy I studied this field. I am glad that beside gaining the partly chemical, partly medical knowledge I also learned a beautiful profession or rather a craft. (Because that is how I actually see pharmacy, as a craft. Not as a business. Which is also one of the reasons I do not work as a pharmacist now: I do not feel I want to be part of this "business".)
Now I am learning how to be a good scientist. I am interested not only in chemistry, pharmacy and my research. I also try to understand how science works, what are its principles, developments and history. What is the philosophy of science. I neither do regret studying pharmacy, nor working outside of it now. I feel a connection of everything will come in the future: science and pharmacy. I am not sure about how the connection will feel like. Maybe it will be rather abstract. After all, I started to join associate pharmacy & science via this blog already. :-)
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