My First Job: Stephanie Villasis

A person’s first job in their field of choice kickstarts their career and sets the tone for the future. We spoke to recent graduates who make up the CASE community to learn more about what their first experience looked like. This is one in a series we’ve titled My First Job.

Stephanie Villasis headshot

Never in a million years did Stephanie Villasis think she would be dealing with a pandemic during her first job as a pharmacist.

“I knew being in the healthcare field that some type of disaster relief or contingency plans would involve myself and my team, but never at this scale or duration of time,” she said.

Villasis is no stranger to working disasters. As an intern, she provided immunizations to healthcare responders in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. She observed Food and Drug Administration meetings and discussed the drug shortage problem during Hurricane Maria. Still, nothing compares to what she is doing now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an essential healthcare provider and frontline responder, the FIU alumna works every day to assist her patients.

Villasis is a community-based pharmacy resident for Baylor Health Enterprises in Irving, Texas and outpatient pharmacist in Dallas, Texas. A typical day for her consists of adjusting the dose of one or more medications a patient needs to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, or hypertension, for example. She also counsels patients on how to use medications and devices such as insulin pens and inhalers. And, she assists patients to get medications from manufacturers at no cost through patient assistance programs.

Stephanie Villasis working while wearing a mask

While her tasks remain the same, these days she’s using a mask.

On her clinic days in Irving, Villasis works remotely answering questions over the phone or titrating medications via webcam by educating them with demo insulin pens and asking her patients open ended questions on their adjusted dose. During her outpatient pharmacy days in Dallas, she solely works at the drive-thru window to limit contact with people.

At both sites we are wearing some type of personal protective equipment whether it be masks, face shields or gloves depending on the level of patient interaction.

Her favorite part about her job is being able to see improvement in her patients. A parasitology course Villasis took with biology senior instructor Paul Sharp at FIU, helped her with reviewing antivirals and remembering various causes of infections she routinely sees in her field.

Villasis always knew she wanted to work in the health care field. Originally she had set her sights on becoming a veterinarian. It wasn’t until a friend introduced her to the FIU Pre-Pharmacy Student Association that she re-considered her path. It started when the friend invited Villasis to one of the society’s meetings. Curious, she researched the job market, learned about the student organization and attended several meetings and events. Villasis found her new passion – pharmacy.

Stephanie Villasis with a Pre-Pharmacy Student Association booth

Villasis was president of the student society during the 2012-2013 academic year. She led the society’s efforts to provide information on the materials required to apply to pharmacy schools and provided opportunities for members to give back to the community. She maintained a good relationship with her former advisor, Gregory Thomas, and received helpful advice in the pharmacy world.

“Best advice was to continue growing even if it wasn’t in pharmacy. He reminded me I should look into Master Degree programs and to be a well-rounded pharmacist,” she said.

For current undergraduates looking to figure out how to tackle life after graduation, Villasis suggests starting with their connections and mentors.

“If you know someone who currently works for a company you are interested in, ask for a reference and ask them what they like about their position,” Villasis said. “Study up on the company you are applying for and always have questions ready for the interview.”

After graduating with a BS in biology in 2013, Villasis earned a doctorate of pharmacy from the University of New England. She hopes to stay with Baylor Health Enterprises and pursue a career in specialty pharmacy and ambulatory care at the conclusion of her residency.