DKICP alumni carve out careers beyond traditional paths

March 8, 2023

Akio Yanagisawa, Pharm.D., works as an information technology analyst pharmacist at The Queen’s Health System, Honolulu, HI.

For many student pharmacists, choosing to get a Pharm.D. degree is the first major career step. Figuring out what they want to do with it can be more challenging. While retail and hospital/clinic settings still provide the majority of positions for pharmacists, there are a growing number of career paths that extend from that work or take a different turn, altogether.

In this three-part series, alumni of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy offer examples of other expanding opportunities to apply clinical, leadership and problem-solving skills developed in today’s pharmacy degree programs.

Careers: Part 1 -- Find your interests, forge connections

After eight years of information technologies work in New York’s fashion industry, Akio Yanagisawa was ready for a change – in work and setting. A move to Hawaii and acceptance into the Pharm.D. program at DKICP provided plenty of change. And while he fully embraced his studies and a future career in healthcare, his interest in information technologies never really dimmed.

While on a P4 rotation at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, he reached out to the pharmacy information management staff and was able to do a mini rotation with them, as well. “Up until then, I was feeling a little unsure about my career options, thinking it was either retail or hospital/clinic work. But when I saw all of the opportunities there were to work in information management while using my pharmacy knowledge, I knew that’s what I really wanted to do.”

His career passion was obvious to his mentors, who hired him after he graduated from DKICP in 2015. Now he heads a team that oversees the management of medication orders as part of the electronic medical records system for The Queen’s Health System, which includes four hospitals and 70 healthcare centers and labs around the state of Hawaii.

“We work with the computer systems that help pharmacists decide which products to prescribe, how those products can be used, monitor inventories and the technologies available to administer medications,” he says.

For example, Yanagisawa devised a way to use small cameras mounted in IV hoods to allow pharmacists to monitor patient progress and as a backup for pharmacy technicians.

“What makes my work so interesting from day to day is the investigation and problem solving it involves,” he says. “It also requires having a global view of The Queen’s Health System, and thinking about big-picture issues in pharmacy management.

“My work is really the best combination of both technology and pharmacy worlds for me,” he says. “It seems that things just fell into place for me, career-wise, and they kind of did. Bu it’s also because I knew what I wanted and made an effort to build important relationships with people who were doing what I wanted to do.”

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