Matthew Brooks, pharmacy student, poses for a headshot.

Bringing global health back home

Matthew Brooks wants to work in West Virginia. That's why he's always leaving it. As a student pharmacist, Matthew has taken advantage of the many opportunities to experience global health rotations and experience pharmacy and patient care in other countries. In his senior year, he'll travel to Oman and do it all again. 

How did you become interested in Pharmacy?

I started at WVU back in 2010 –undergrad in biochemistry—I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but WVU did a great job of opening me up to new experiences. During my program there as well as my masters, I got to work at the agricultural farm, research, international travel. Through all these exposures and with my background in the sciences, I eventually found my place in pharmacy while shadowing over at (Ruby Memorial Hospital).

Did you have an "aha!" moment when you realized Pharmacy was the right career for you?

I don’t come from a family of Pharmacists. I actually discovered Pharmacy a little bit later. It was when I was shadowing at Ruby. I was following one of the residents there, and I saw how she was able to impact the patient’s care. I got to see how she interacted with the medical team and be a part of a patient’s care process, make recommendations, improve patient safety and improve patient care. It was there watching her working with those patients that I thought wow, I really want to be Pharmacist.

Why was the patient care aspect so important to you?

Pharmacy is an evolving profession and right now we’re getting to have more experience and more opportunities in hospital settings, as well as our communities with ambulatory clinics and services that pharmacists can provide. And, getting to see these new roles that pharmacists are taking on, and these new responsibilities, and how accessible we are with patients.

Every single day when I go to work, I get to be in direct contact with patients and make a difference in their lives. It’s that accessibility. That ability for them to reach out to us—ask us questions, have the questions answered. To work with doctors and answer questions about medications and interactions and provide the best quality care for the patient. In the end, it’s awesome to see things work and see the patient leave healthier.

Why did you choose West Virginia University?

I don’t know why I would go anywhere but West Virginia University. I’m from West Virginia, and this is my home.

WVU really emphasizes things that are important to me like a strong sense of community—and everything that I could want in a Pharmacy school is right here in Morgantown. Last year we ranked in the top 5 nationally in placing residents in the residency program—which is a huge achievement.

Ruby Memorial Hospital is right next door. It has great rotations. We have strong professors—some of the best in the entire country. It’s just the best place to get an education and the best community that emphasizes the things that I believe in.

Why have you been traveling internationally while in school?

After my first year of pharmacy school, I got accepted into a program with the International Pharmacy Students Federation. They sent me to Prague where I was able to spend two weeks in a hospital as well as two weeks in a community pharmacy. Pharmacy there is very different, and I was able to teach them something about how we do pharmacy in the United States, as well as there,  are things that I learned there. There are a lot of ways to do things, and sometimes we only know our own way. Seeing things done in a different way helps us grow. We’re able to give and we’re able to take.

Their experiences were heavily based on compounding, so I was able to learn some things that we don’t do as much here. Have a better understanding of the history of medication and how we got to where we are now. Having a better understanding of that past has allowed me to have a better grip on the future.

Additionally, I just found out that I’ll get to spend my last rotational block in Oman next April, so I’m very excited about going over there and working with a different patient population and disease states that we don’t see here as much like tuberculosis and HIV that are at higher prevalences.

I'll be able to work with those patients. See how to care for them best, get that experience and bring back what I've learned so I can reach out to patients here reducing stigma and treat people appropriately.

How do you think the travel experiences will ultimately make you a better pharmacist?

Ultimately what I found out the first time leaving the country was that there’s just so much more to learn, and so many more ways to do things. There’s no one right way to do something. Also, when you are in a country that you don’t speak the same language, you’re not necessarily familiar with their customs, their beliefs and their values, you're much more aware of your surroundings.

While I can be very easy in day-to-day society. just to assume you understand the person that you’re talking to and what’s going on in their lives, sometimes just having that having that complete change of scenery, location and setting helps you to be more acutely aware of what their needs are and what they're trying to communicate to you. You have to really watch and learn and try and figure what is going on.

Being able to develop those skills, have those experiences see what’s important to some people, as well as when people with other backgrounds come to West Virginia. You’re about to help them communicate in an appropriate, respectful manner and those are experiences and things you don’t just necessarily learn anywhere and International travel has been great at helping me to learn that.