October 26, 2020david vu [View Image]David Vu, Pharm.D. (B.S.’13/H&S)
One of David Vu’s favorite phrases is “off the beaten path.” You might even call it a mantra.
Which helps explain why he put himself through pharmacy school but didn’t end up working at a pharmacy.
Not that he’s not passionate about the field. In the past couple of years alone, he’s worked in various capacities, most recently as quality assurance engineer for Kit Check, which serves hospital pharmacies, and as affiliate faculty at his alma mater in the VCU School of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science.
In 2019, he co-founded Pharmacy Informatics Academy, which helps educate the next generation of pharmacists about careers in health care technology; and, in June 2020, he co-founded Dispense As Written, a venture focused on helping health care professionals develop their personal brands.
His introduction to pharmacy came as an undergraduate at VCU, when he was earning his bachelor’s in science, with a concentration in professional science, and he volunteered at a free clinic. Immediately after he earned his degree, he worked as a pharmacy technician for a community pharmacy, which helped cement his passion for the discipline. As an inveterate problem-solver, he saw a space where he could put his talents to work. Watching the day-to-day operations, “I started thinking ‘What sort of technologies could improve a lot of these manual tasks and save a little time for the pharmacists?’ — not only to help the pharmacists but also to optimize patient care downstream.”
Gravitating to nontraditional health care careers is what spurred him to establish his own ventures. He created the Pharmacy Informatics Academy because he wanted to make pharmacists aware they could use their considerable skill sets in settings beyond community pharmacies and hospitals, which can have just as much impact as a pharmacist filling prescriptions. He has also established a scholarship to expand opportunities for pharmacy students interested in pharmacy informatics, a specialty that integrates pharmacy and technology.
His more recent venture, likewise, is to expand horizons in the world of pharmacy — “to help pharmacists build their own brand within the health care space, to help them realize the value they bring so they can really navigate the job market and find a job that suits their passions.”
He returns often to VCU as a volunteer: as a preceptor for Pharm.D. candidates and an “ambassador” for OpenEMR at the annual Health Hacks event. His ambassador role is particularly fulfilling, he says, because he learned about OpenEMR, a nonprofit organization that provides open-source electronic health records, when he attended Health Hacks as a student. While there, he collaborated with other students to create a virtual-reality-based approach to help calm children with special needs prior to medical procedures.
If he has any single piece of advice for future students, it’s to keep an open mind. “I always think about the end goal in mind, but at the same time, if opportunity arises, why not try it?” he says — and don’t worry if your end goal changes, too. He admits his “off-the-beaten-path” career trajectory has been “a little bit of a whirlwind. But it's been a fun whirlwind, of course.”