Joanna “Joey” Redmon, a graduate student in pharmacy at Washington State University, truly “gets” the significance of searching for opportunities and engaging in her own education. “My greatest learning experience,” she said, “has been how to find opportunities that will lead me to my goals.”
“College can be intimidating,” Joey said. “It’s a challenge to navigate and locate relevant opportunities. For me, it started with the WSU Honors College where I learned how to integrate into the WSU community and participate in many rewarding experiences. I want to share that understanding with other students.”
Joey’s path to Washington State University took some navigating. She’d started dancing at age three and was trained in ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance. Dancing professionally was Joey’s dream. After she graduated from high school in her hometown, Spokane, Washington, she planned to move to California to fulfill that dream. But Joey was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “All through high school I struggled with the disease but continued to do everything I loved, so I figured I’d always be able to do that.” Joey danced competitively, was on the high school cheer squad, and took as many AP classes as she could. She admits she’s never been a person who keeps a light schedule.
“It wasn’t until after I graduated high school I started to see the toll the illness would take on me. I tried so many medications and finally responded to a biologic the fall after I graduated. That’s when I became interested in medicine.”
Once she was stabilized on her biologic Joey thought life would continue as normal. But Crohn’s Disease is a lot more than inflammation. Joey discovered she was unable to keep up such a physically demanding lifestyle. Her body couldn’t handle the numerous physical demands and stay healthy. She still struggles with this today.
Joey said, “I vowed never to let Crohn’s Disease define me. I wasn’t going to let an illness run my life. I knew I’d always have to deal with it, but I’d be in charge of doing what I wanted to do. I had to alter my goals and change my priorities. But since I was dealt these cards, I would play them as I saw fit.”
Instead of letting the disease derail her, Joey let it move her in a new direction—she would pursue a career in pharmacy. And move she did. Joey was in the Honors College, a Crimson Girl for WSU Athletics, and conducted research alongside Dr. Michael Court, whose lab focuses on pharmacogenomics. “I found my home in so many places at the University,” she said. “Coming to WSU was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
“I love the entire health care field,” Joey said. But I really love pharmacy because I’m interested in treating disease as effectively as possible. I struggled on various medications and wished I had someone keeping track of my treatment plan to monitor side effects, have ideas about different therapies, etc. With chronic conditions, this attention to detail is very important.”
Joey has received financial support from the George Norwin Endowed Scholarship; Frasier Cline-Gretchen Gnauck Scholarship; George Van Vleet Endowment; WSU Pharmacy Alumni Scholarship; Brelsford Honors College Award; Eisako Ito Scholarship; and M.E. and Maxine Johnson Honors College Scholarship. She said the support enabled her to pursue many valuable opportunities, all of which have led her to becoming a more well-rounded person and providing professional experience outside the classroom. It’s important, she said, to get involved in the extra-curricular activities your program and school have to offer.
For example, in 2014, “just for fun,” Joey applied for the Fulbright-Scotland Summer Institute program, which is highly competitive. The comprehensive application required two essays and several written responses. Joey submitted her application in early March on the topic “Scotland: Identity, Culture, and Innovation.” Two weeks later, to her surprise, she learned she’d been accepted. Joey said, “They were looking for people who would serve as good ambassadors of the United States.”
Although the Fulbright program veered from her major, Joey saw the five-week stint abroad as a chance to realize her personal growth. She spent half of her time at the University of Dundee in Scotland where she focused on Scottish literature, history, forensic human identification, river hydrology and the arts. Then, she traveled to Strathclyde University in the UK, where she learned Scottish history, health and society, media and politics, and science and technology.
The Fulbright program included site visits, seminars, and lectures, with an emphasis on U.K. culture and life sciences. Of the nine programs, Joey’s focused most on science and technology. “It’s important to gain cultural awareness,” she said. “Part of being well-rounded means having a global perspective. Traveling abroad helped me grow and gave me a new outlook on the world.”
In addition to the Fulbright program, Joey traveled to Tanzania the summer after she finished her undergraduate studies to help conduct antimicrobial research. The multi-year project was under Dr. Doug Call, and they focused on the ecology of antibiotic resistance in northern villages of Tanzania. The research was made possible through the WSU Honors College, WSU School for Global Animal Health, Dean Norton, and Dr. Call.
“The Tanzania experience was completely different from the Scotland trip,” Joey said, “but equally rewarding. Getting to live in a different part of the world for the summer and taking in the culture of my surroundings shaped and changed me. It’s something you can’t grasp until you’ve experienced it, but living in different parts of the globe, even for short periods of time, and working with people different from yourself under atypical conditions gives you a new perspective on how to think, learn, and act.”
After earning her bachelor of science, Joey chose to stay at WSU for graduate school because she had grown to love the WSU community during her undergraduate experience. As a matter of fact, her favorite part about Washington State University is the community. “WSU makes it possible to establish relationships that lead to rewarding opportunities,” she said. “As an undergraduate and as a Pharm.D. student, I’ve found the faculty truly care about students and urge us to become individuals. They help us inside and outside the classroom. Having mentors is critical to success.”
According to Joey, the WSU College of Pharmacy stresses the importance of engaging in relevant activities outside the classroom. “Getting a Pharm.D. is about more than what you learn in lecture,” she said. “There are valuable experiences to gain through health fairs, volunteering, student organizations, campus clubs, and so on.” Joey became an active member of the Professional Pharmacy Student Organization, American Pharmacists Association, and many others. Within the College of Pharmacy, she works on the Student Ambassador Executive Committee alongside faculty to help students integrate into the college as well as the community. She also participated in the Community Engagement Committee and Legacy Committee through ASWSU and served as a College Access Coach to mentor high school students wishing to seek higher education in the STEM fields. One of Joey’s favorite opportunities involved teaching a diabetes self-management workshop that helped patients understand how to better manage their condition. She currently serves as the APhA-ASP Operation Diabetes Co-Chair, and along with other student pharmacists, further helps diabetic/pre-diabetic patients.
After Joey graduates with her professional degree, she hopes to be accepted into a residency program at a hospital or clinic. Recently she received a spot in the Providence Holy Family Pharmacist Intern Program where she will work as an intern over the next three years while earning her professional degree. Eventually she wants to become a clinical pharmacist to help patients manage chronic conditions. Since she has Crohn’s Disease, a chronic condition, Joey understands the importance and need for good pharmacists. She wants to meet that need.
For future students, Joey offers this advice: “If you think you’re interested in pursuing pharmacy, get involved in the health care field as an undergraduate.” She also recommends getting a pharmacy assistant license and working in a community setting. “Become a volunteer in a hospital, work in a nursing home, or conduct research in the pharmaceutical sciences. Anything that gives you exposure to the field will help you determine whether or not pharmacy is right for you.”
All work and no play makes Joey a dull student. When the weather’s nice, she enjoys hiking or being outdoors with her many dogs, and spending time with friends and family. When the weather’s disagreeable, she prefers to read for enjoyment or prepare delicious food. This ambitious young woman deeply appreciates what she’s been given. “I’m thankful for everything,” she said, “tangible and intangible, I’ve received from WSU and the donors. I have a lot of pride in Washington State University.”