Many of our graduate students work in the medical field and seek further education in business to complement and enhance their career path. Simone De Groot, a current Healthcare MBA student, is one of our many students that fits this background.
- Associate of Arts, Ricks College (BYU-Idaho)
- Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a minor in German, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
- Doctor of Pharmacy, Midwestern University – Glendale Campus – Glendale, AZ
Tell us about your history
I am from the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which are the southern-most islands in the Caribbean. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Biology because my original plan was to be a veterinarian. However, after an emotionally charged incident involving the de-horning of a goat, I decided that my skills could best be utilized elsewhere.
On my island home, depending on what field you want to study, you may be required to move to a different island to attend university. I didn’t want to do this because Trinidad is where I felt most at home, so I decided to finish my education in America instead. I wanted to go to a church school to help minimize the culture shock – especially as my high school consisted solely of girls and had only 600 students in the entire school. There were two different church schools to choose from and the smaller of the two was in Idaho. Flying from an island to Idaho was eye opening. I will never forget stepping off the plane that May in Idaho Falls, Idaho wearing only a t-shirt and shorts. Turns out May in Idaho is not the same as May on the island. I was horrified by how cold it was!
I was 21 years old when I came to Idaho to begin my tertiary education and came with only $1000 and my first semester’s tuition and housing paid for. I didn’t have any family there, so I worked two on-campus jobs to help pay for not only my food and lodging, but also for the following semester’s educational and living expenses. This is when I cultivated and perfected not only my work ethic but also my culinary skills with all things ramen. From those beginnings I would go on to marry, have kids, and continue working through all my degrees, and eventually become an American citizen. For the last 13 years I have been employed as a clinical pharmacist at Hartford Hospital and this career choice has seen me work practically every position and every shift available in my department. I feel incredibly lucky considering Pharmacy wasn’t my first choice, because I absolutely love what I do. I love taking care of people, I love helping, and I love being part of something much bigger and better than what I could ever accomplish being alone.
As for my family, my husband’s name is Thomas, and I’m a mom of three girls – Emma (14), Lily (12), and Abby (8). Our family has a rescue dog named Dawson who looks like Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter. He’s a Sharpei-mix that we rescued from a shelter in Arkansas. We also have a (fat) cat and an ever-increasing horde of guinea pigs.
Why did you decide to go back to school to get your Healthcare MBA?
I’ve come to realize that despite loving what I do, I couldn’t see myself doing this until I retire. I hope that obtaining my MBA will help me make things better in my most immediate sphere of influence to begin with. Because I’ve been in the trenches and worked through many situations, I thought: “Who else would know how to make things better than someone who’s already done it?” I have some understanding of what everybody goes through because I have been there myself. As such, I genuinely want to find ways to make improvements to my work environment – not just for pharmacists, but also for everyone working in the healthcare field. I am a big believer in maximizing employee satisfaction because when you enjoy what you do and are happy to come to work, then you work better and harder, volunteer more discretionary effort which all results in better patient care.
Why did you choose WT?
I did a lot of research into different schools. I looked at feedback, reviews, rankings and costs. WT came out on top. My experience has borne this out so far. In fact, I sung the University’s praises so much that my new manager also started online with WT.
Tell us about working full time and working toward your graduate degree.
I started my MBA degree when I worked 3rd shift. I won’t say it was the easiest thing to do, but it’s definitely possible. With a husband and three kids, going back to school was a challenge, especially that first semester. Learning how to use Blackboard and how the classes were set up, being apprehensive and wondering “what if I’m not intelligent enough to keep up?” Or, being worried about failing – it’s a lot to handle all at the same time. But my family and professors have and continue to be supportive which without a doubt has helped my academic performance be what it is thus far.
Tell us about your experience with COVID-19
I’ve cared for COVID-19 patients in an ICU setting and because it was such a new virus taking care of these patients really was a team effort. We all were doing the best we could with the information we had. As you can imagine, that information changes depending on studies, CDC recommendations, etc. So when you consider that so much of this virus is (still) unknown, and treatment recommendations update frequently, it is a very stressful time to be in healthcare. In addition, the presentation of that population subset can be quite complex. From the perspective of a clinical pharmacist, these patients do not present as “typical” pulmonary ICU patients. So, as we learned more about COVID-19, we monitored and adjusted our practices in accordance, whether it be changing or adjusting medications as necessary following their labs, looking at their cultures, etc. On average it would take me twice as long to look at these patients when compared to a “regular” ICU patient. So, that in and of itself is exhausting.
I’ll be honest with you – it’s a scary disease. We do the best we can, but because there are so many unknowns, it was and still is, very frightening. I’m immunocompromised, so taking care of this patient population was especially worrisome for me. There were a lot of days I would come home and disrobe in my foyer and go straight to the shower and cry for a few minutes because I didn’t want my girls to see. It was a very stressful situation to be in. How can you fully protect yourself from an enemy you can’t see?
The fantastic thing is that our organization was so adept about preparing in advance. We helped open a field hospital and additional triage areas in case we needed them but thankfully we did not. It is comforting however to belong to a healthcare organization that was organized, prepared and ready for all conceivable eventualities.
Like it or not, COVID changes us and as a result, it also changes the world around us, but sometimes a little humor can be found, albeit somewhat dark humor. After Easter, because we had (and still are) distancing in the department, they opened up the department’s conference room for us to eat lunch in. One lunchtime, I was eating a ham sandwich in the conference room by myself. So I took a bite of sandwich and a small piece went down the wrong way and I started choking a little bit. While I was calmly trying to dislodge the errant piece of food, I literally thought to myself: “Ok, do I just choke or cough and try to clear it but risk those close by thinking I had COVID?” For 60 seconds I tried clearing my throat and then finally said forget it and started coughing. And then I thought to myself – this is ridiculous! I was willing to choke rather than to cough and have somebody think that I had COVID – I could have aspirated and ended up in my own ICU!
Tell us about faculty that have been influential to you at WT
Dr. Anne Macy – She was so helpful to me. The Spring semester was very hard because in March Covid-19 started taking off, at least in Connecticut. March is also when my three girls switched to online classes. So with three girls, who don’t always get along, and my husband and I both working full time outside the home, it was difficult.
Towards the end of the semester I got sick, and was quite concerned that I was COVID-19 positive. So, I was tested, and thankfully, I was negative. But I was out for a week and Dr. Macy let me hand in my case study literally on the last day of class. I was very thankful for that, because usually that is not me. I can count on one hand in my entire academic career where I’ve ever asked for any accommodation like that. I’m very much a suck it up and plow through it individual but it was just too much that time going on to not reach out and ask for help. I will always be thankful to her for that.
Dr. Neil Meredith – I really enjoyed Dr. Meredith. I had him for Microeconomics and he is a challenging teacher. I can see that he has a great sense of humor. If I remember correctly, his intro letter to the class said something like “I love Jesus and the Walking Dead.” And I just thought that was fantastic because that’s something I honestly miss. It’s very rare for anyone to talk openly about their faith or beliefs and I come from a background where our elected officials pray openly and together. It is a normal part of island life.
Dr. Meredith’s class was very good because it was interesting, and challenging, but by no means was it an easy class. I also took Economics of Health and Medical Care from him which I especially enjoyed because there were so many things that were applicable to my field and to the clinical setting I work in. A lot of his examples were spot on when it came to medications and other pharmacy issues which made it a much more interesting and relatable class for me.
After the semester was over, and when I knew I wouldn’t be taking any more classes with him, I shared pictures with him of me with different cast members of the Walking Dead when a friend and I attended a Walker Stalker Con 5 years ago in Atlanta, Ga.
Simone (left) and her friend with The Governor and The Dixon Boys from The Walking Dead
At times our journey may not be what we originally had set in our minds, but if we stay true to ourselves, those new paths can lead to very fulfilling and rewarding experiences. Don’t be afraid to change and try new things. The lessons and experiences you have may be even more gratifying than those you initially dreamed of.
For more information about Graduate Programs in the Engler College of Business, contact COBGrad@wtamu.edu or 806-651-2500.