Dr. Eris Tollkuci on Shaping the Next Generation of Pharmacists
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Mentor/mentee relationships like the one between Eris Tollkuci, PharmD, BCOP, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, and Angelina Raimonde, COP ’20, can strengthen the healthcare professions, improve care and enhance well-being of both mentors and mentees, studies show.
The two met during an oncology pharmacotherapy course taught by Dr. Tollkuci, who also works as a hematology/oncology/cell therapy clinical pharmacy specialist at Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) in Chicago. They also worked together during a clinical rotation at RUMC, precepted by Dr. Tollkuci.
“She sparked my interest in oncology,” Angelina said. “Last year, I reached out to her to ask for advice prior to starting my clinical rotations and to share my interest in a pharmacy residency. I really needed advice on how to be the best student possible and engage in projects that would set me up for success.”
The conversations that followed opened opportunities for Angelina, who is currently applying for residency. While residency is not a requirement for pharmacists, about 20 percent of PharmD candidates pursue highly competitive one or two years of additional training.
“Dr. Tollkuci’s evaluations as preceptor and her conversations with me have been so beneficial I constantly go back to them, especially in preparation for residency interviews,” Angelina said.
“Mentoring is more intense than precepting, which is prearranged and short-term,” Dr. Tollkuci said. “It’s more personal and requires a high level of commitment. It’s quality over quantity. It’s reciprocal but also asymmetrical. The primary purpose is the mentee’s growth and development.
“We’re shaping the next generation of pharmacists across classes and experiential rotations,” said Dr. Tollkuci, who has challenged Angelina, held her to her goals, helped her become a better student and future pharmacist. “We’re helping create and foster collaborations and cognitive diversity.”
“I experienced a tremendous amount of growth during my six-week rotation with Dr. Tollkuci,” Angelina said. “She’s just a phenomenal mentor. Initially, I just picked her brain about why she went into hematology/oncology. I compared my life, my desires and what I wanted from my professional career. Having someone to bounce ideas off, to ask for advice, is huge. She has reviewed my letters of intent and written several letters of recommendation. It’s been such a positive experience and it all stemmed from the professionalism and confidence I witnessed during her pharmacotherapy course.”
Dr. Tollkuci has introduced Angelina to people in her network, connected her to research opportunities, resulting in a poster presentation at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2019 Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Las Vegas.
“There’s no doubt that mentorship builds networks,” Dr. Tollkuci said. “In my specialty, having a strong network outside of my practice is very important for patient care. I’m working with hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplant patients. It’s a very heterogeneous group of patients in terms of disease states and supportive care. I often reach out to colleagues in other specialties and/or different institutions to brainstorm and discuss unique clinical practices.”
Dr. Tollkuci’s accessibility and feedback have helped boost Angelina’s self-confidence.
“It’s empowering to know that someone at her level thinks of me and can see what I’m good at and what I need to work on,” Angelina said.
“I am so proud to watch Angelina transition from a classroom setting to experiential rotations and now pursue a residency, seeing how her academic interests have translated to the clinical setting,” Dr. Tollkuci said. “She has developed strong characteristics of a successful pharmacist in training. She truly cares about her learning and, more importantly, her patients.”