Pharmacist credits Trinidad State for her solid foundation
Trinidad & Valley Campus / July 1, 2019 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
After graduating high school in 2007, Trinidad native Shannon Ortiz, wanted to live at home while transitioning to college life. “I wasn’t ready to go off to a big university. I wanted the opportunity to live at home with my family while I was transitioning to college life,” said Ortiz. Many of her family members had already chosen to study at Trinidad State including her mom, stepdad, grandmother, sister and brother-in-law.
Ortiz’s mom, a nurse, was a big influence on her career. In grade school Ortiz knew that she wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps and enter the medical field where she could help people too. By seventh grade she had decided how. She wasn’t too keen on bodily fluids or the blood side of things. She was more interested in diseases and how to treat them. When she was asked to create a poster depicting her educational goal, she drew rows of medicine bottles as though they were encased in a medicine cabinet. She already knew she wanted to be a pharmacist.
Last May, Ortiz was honored at the Trinidad State graduation ceremony in Trinidad. She was handed a certificate of appreciation from Interim President, Dr. Kerry Hart. Each year Trinidad State recognizes one ambitious graduate, ten years out, at the college graduation. Ortiz, now thirty, began taking prerequisite classes as a junior in High School. With a high GPA (grade point average) she applied for many scholarships receiving enough to add up to the full amount of tuition and school expenses. “Because I didn’t walk into this experience with a financial deficit, I was able to adapt to pharmacy school without having to work that first year,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz graduated from Trinidad State in 2009 after majoring in pre-pharmacy. Because she had taken enough prerequisites in high school, she was able to complete her pharmaceutical prerequisites in just two years. She knows of others who took four years to complete their pre-requisites because they had not taken college classes while in high school. While at Trinidad State, she worked first at Hometown Pharmacy as a cashier and then as a certified pharmacy technician at Walmart. When she needed a biochemistry class at Trinidad State, math and chemistry instructor, Judy McClaren, took time out of her own schedule to do that class with Ortiz one-on-one. “She’s a huge huge reason why I got into pharmacy school. She’s a great role model with a great heart,” said Ortiz. About Ortiz McClaren said, “Shannon is a very bright, hardworking young women. She was extremely motivated to become a pharmacist. Her lab work was exceptional. She was detailed oriented. I feel honored to have worked with her and am proud of her accomplishments.”
Ortiz also credited retired biology teacher, Ron Rankin, with helping her toward her goal. “He was enthusiastic and passionate and made class so enjoyable,” she said. “I remember my very first day of college, when several students got in a van with him to go look for dinosaur fossils. I was thinking ‘we don’t need permission slips?’ Although she was a little leery about that first adventure, Rankin too was instrumental in helping Ortiz move toward her goal. “He knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school, and he wanted to make sure I got there,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have been able to live as comfortably as I did had I not gone to a community college. I was able to graduate at the age of 23 with my doctorate,” said Ortiz who earned her doctorate at Regis University in Denver and started as a pharmacy intern at King Soopers in 2011. King Soopers then hired her as a pharmacist in 2013 and five years later she was named Pharmacist of the Year for all King Soopers stores in Colorado. Unbeknownst to her, the pharmacy manager had nominated her for the award. He said she demonstrated the utmost professionalism with patience and a tranquil demeanor while diffusing difficult situations. He applauded her knowledgeable and compassionate patient care, noted her positive personality and said she was at the forefront in recent pharmacy changes. “We are now engaging in clinical work,” said Ortiz. “Although we run as a retail pharmacy, we are now focusing on clinical aspects such as medication adherence, medication recommendations based on disease states and risk factors, vaccinations, birth control prescribing, complete medication reviews, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, all in addition to dispensing around 1400 prescriptions per week!” Ortiz, who doesn’t take anything for granted, said “I am able to enjoy life after college at such a young age.” She likes hiking, dancing, eating, traveling and spending time with her friends, family and her cat named Thorazine. Yes, Thorazine. “Although I only have a cat now,” said Ortiz. “all my pets will have drug names. Thorazine is an antipsychotic drug. My cat balances me out during my bad times so Thorazine fits him perfectly.” Ortiz volunteers at the Adam’s County Animal Shelter Adoption Center where her focus is on the adoption of kittens and cats.
Traveling is high on her priority list and she has traveled to Hawaii, Texas, California and even China. She is taking her parents to Hawaii next. “I owe thanks to them for my opportunities and this is one small way I can thank them,” said Ortiz. Japan and Europe are on the horizon where she will travel with her boyfriend who is also a pharmacist.
“I could not be more grateful for such a wonderful opportunity to be as prepared as possible for graduate school,” said Ortiz about her time spent at Trinidad State. “My classes were small, and it was comfortable for me. My professors knew who I was. They knew my name and where I wanted to go.”