It all started with Heather Dalton’s fascination with medication labels. She’d break out the newspaper-sized package insert of a medication and study the micro print, curious about the ingredients and their effects on a person’s health. “I was always interested in the way medications work,” she says. “I think my interest came from my own experience. In many cases, medications can save lives.”
Dalton’s curiosity led to her ambition to become a pharmacist. Of course, the path to accomplishing that goal was challenging to discern, especially as a freshman at the U of M. Dalton knew she needed to pursue a prehealth major that would prepare her for the rigorous application process to get into pharmacy school. She started on her journey as a chemistry and biology major, but the intensity of that coursework overwhelmed her and didn’t feel like the right fit.
“I was in physiology class one day, and a friend of mine told me about how she was designing her own health major through the Inter-College Program’s Health and Wellness track,” Dalton says. Intrigued, she reached out to the advising team for the major (which is now called the Health and Wellbeing Sciences major).
“Choosing to pursue the [Health and Wellbeing Sciences] major was the best decision I could make for my career,” Dalton says. “I definitely would not be here today if I hadn’t chosen that major.”
Destination: Pharmacy School
Dalton designed her own prehealth major through the Health and Wellbeing Sciences degree program, drawing from an array of courses offered across the U of M, which ultimately gave her a 360-degree understanding of health and wellness. She recalls the great impact of classes in nutrition, mindfulness, and wellbeing—informing her perspective on the health care field that she was preparing to enter.
“Classes that are included in that major are so beneficial,” Dalton says. “You don’t realize you need this breadth of classes until you’re in the health care field, then you see why it matters so much.”
“Classes that are included in that major are so beneficial. You don’t realize you need this breadth of classes until you’re in the health care field, then you see why it matters so much.”
After graduation, Dalton applied to pharmacy schools. In her interviews, many people asked about the degree she’d chosen, giving her an opportunity to show off her initiative in self-designing her education while gaining a well-rounded prehealth degree. It was the perfect foundation for her future in pharmacy, and Dalton was accepted to the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
“A lot of my interviewers were intrigued and impressed by the uniqueness of my degree, and believed it should be more common,” Dalton says. “I think it distinguished me from other interview candidates.”
The three years of intense pharmacy school education went by in a blink, and Dalton graduated as a Doctor of Pharmacy in the spring of 2020. Although the pandemic halted any plans for a big celebration, she still walked across her living room, pretending it was the stage, and proudly accepted her newly minted credential.
After she graduated from pharmacy school, Dalton sent a heartfelt email to her proposal-writing instructor, AJ Sanchez, and her advisor, Karen Moon, each of whom helped to guide her in her undergraduate journey as she created her individualized degree.
“A lot of my interviewers were intrigued and impressed by the uniqueness of my degree, and believed it should be more common. I think it distinguished me from other interview candidates.”
“Graduating from pharmacy school was a reflective period for me. I thought about how, for someone who’s interested in going into health care but doesn’t know which major to choose, the Health and Wellbeing Sciences major is definitely worth considering,” Dalton says. “The breadth of courses, from nutrition to exercise health, and soft skills like communication and public speaking: that was all super helpful. The well-roundedness is what got me to where I am today and helped me get a residency. My undergraduate degree set me apart.”
Residency as a Pharmacist
Today, Dalton is completing a two-year Health System Administration and Leadership Residency as a pharmacist at the Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina while pursuing her Master of Science in Healthcare Administration at the University of North Carolina. She’s excited to gain this experience and launch her career in pharmacy.
“I just feel like it’s my calling,” Dalton says. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
Heather Dalton is a recipient of the Harrison & Victor Scholarship.