Commencement 2022: Pharmacy graduate aims to share her knowledge, and her music

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 11, 2022 – While still a high school student deciding on her collegiate future, Marisa Jacobs was sitting in the admissions office of a pharmacy college at a large East Coast university — one of two at the top of her list of potential schools — talking about her talents for math and science, her love of writing and art, and her lifelong passion for playing music, all of which she planned to continue in her chosen university.

When the admissions officer informed her that the rigors of the pharmacy program would preclude her from playing the viola in that university’s orchestra, she and her father left and drove north up the coast a bit to the University of Rhode Island. Here, she has excelled in the College of Pharmacy’s equally rigorous 0-6 doctor of pharmacy program, while also sharing her love of writing with her fellow students and, yes, playing the viola for six years in the URI Symphony Orchestra.

While completing the rigorous Pharm.D. program, Jacobs also played in the URI Symphony Orchestra all six years.

“I am so happy I ended up going to URI, and I would choose URI again,” Jacobs said. “URI let me play in the orchestra. Maybe that doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, but it was a big deal to me. When I came to URI and mentioned it to someone, they were like, ‘OK, I don’t know if anyone has done that before, but go ahead.’ Everyone here at URI is so open-minded and so willing. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t. They allowed us the freedom to do things outside the pharmacy program. Even though the program is really busy, I was still able to do a lot of other things.”

In addition to the Symphony Orchestra, Jacobs played viola in the String Quartets and even in the jazz band, while earning a minor in music. The Poughquag, NY, native also worked in the URI Writing Center, helping fellow students polish up their term papers and short stories, while becoming an exemplary student in the College of Pharmacy, from which she will graduate in May with her Pharm.D. She didn’t always know that pharmacy is where she would end up, just that she wanted to do something in the sciences. One summer in her hometown helped her make her decision.

“I always knew I wanted to do something with math and science because those were my strongest subjects, the ones I liked the most,” Jacobs said. “My older sister, Lauren, is a veterinarian. I saw her do animal science, and I liked that, but I didn’t want to have to put animals down. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse. So my mom suggested pharmacy. I didn’t really know what they even do.”

But she was intrigued and wanted to learn more. So, one summer she spent every afternoon walking down the street to a Hannaford Pharmacy, where she would stand back and watch how a pharmacy worked.

“Since I was too young to work there, they let me stand there and shadow and see what goes on,” Jacobs said. “I couldn’t touch anything, I couldn’t do anything, but I stood there for 40 hours in total over the summer, and something about that clicked. After that experience, I started researching pharmacy schools, and really looking toward pharmacy as a career.”

The College of Pharmacy’s 0-6 program, which allows students to complete their general studies and earn their Pharm.D. in six years without having to reapply to a graduate school, attracted her to URI. The plethora of varied opportunities the university offers — and the College’s support in her pursuit of them — confirmed her decision.

The expertise she has found in her professors at URI further convinced Jacobs she had made the right choice. She has done several clinical rotations in her time at URI, working with several professors including Erica Estus, “who was the first person I met when I toured the college,” Christine Eisenhower and Patrick Kelly. Associate Dean Kelly Orr has been Jacobs’ academic advisor and, as it turns out, her career advisor.

“Over the summer, Dr. Orr sent me information about medical writing opportunities, and that’s what I’m going to go into after I graduate,” Jacobs said, noting she’ll begin working for AdMed Inc., in Philadelphia. “It’s a company that contracts with major pharmaceutical corporations to create educational materials to educate pharmaceutical sales reps on the medications they’re selling, so when they’re talking to doctors or nurses, they have a better idea of what they’re discussing. It’s kind of like teaching, which is one of the main reasons I like pharmacy, so I’m really excited.”

Jacobs said she plans to pursue academia in the future, hoping to teach pharmacy students at the collegiate level — perhaps even back at URI one day. Wherever she ends up, her work in pharmaceutical sciences will be joined by her passions for writing, art and, especially, music.

And yes, she is already researching community orchestras in the Philly area.