Hometown Head Start

Madison Kornides, in a white lab coat leaning against a stone wallAspiring pharmacist Madison Kornides didn’t just face the coronavirus; she was part of the efforts to combat it. 

In the summer of 2020, she interned at the Giant Eagle pharmacy in her hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, during the first wave of the pandemic, combining practical pharmaceutical experiences with her classroom education to serve the community of about 8,000.

“I wanted to be as useful as possible as quickly as possible,” said Kornides, who was inspired to join the profession as a youngster during a visit to a historical Civil War site. A book about medicines used in that era sparked her love of science and desire to help people, she said.

More on guaranteed admissions programs

There are a number of programs at Pitt that help promising students jump-start their careers, from pharmacy to social work, business to engineering. Learn more.

As a student in Pitt’s guaranteed pharmacy admissions program, Kornides has been able to get a head start on her professional journey, entering the pharmacy graduate program and accompanying internships after two years of undergraduate study.

At the Giant Eagle pharmacy, she met and learned to recognize all of her coworkers in masks and interacted with customers amid the uncertainty and fear of the early pandemic. 

“You definitely have to be patient with people, because you never know what someone is going through, and the pandemic impacted everyone. Some people recently lost loved ones and just wanted their meds, and I can’t fault them for being snippy,” she said.  

As the year wore on, Kornides served beyond her hometown community as well. After the release of COVID-19 vaccines, she not only received her shots, but rolled up her sleeves and got to work vaccinating others as well. 

Along with other health care industry volunteers, Kornides worked at a vaccination clinic set up in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field to provide lifesaving shots for the elderly and vulnerable. She also helped to dispel myths about the vaccines and encourage people to get the inoculations to protect themselves and the rest of society. 

Thriving through the year

Due to the pandemic, Kornides’ first year of graduate pharmaceutical education happened virtually. 

“Figuring out how to conduct practical instruction virtually was a challenge, but it ended up much better than we anticipated,” said Catherine Rebitch, associate professor of pharmacy, and one of Kornides’ mentors. Her course for first-year pharmacy students, Pharmacist Patient Care, involved interacting with standardized patients over Zoom. 

One silver lining, Rebitch said, is that the pandemic has allowed the school to prepare students for the growing trend of telemedicine in the health care industry. 

Beyond the virtual classroom, Kornides has also worked to extend to her involvement within the school of pharmacy itself. She is president-elect of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists chapter on campus, a position in line with her goal to work in psychiatric pharmacy. Additionally, through her role as a pharmacy ambassador, she helps the school inform new students about the opportunities of a pharmacy degree and aid them in the application process.  

Kornides returned to the pharmacy in Latrobe for a brief period this spring before coming back to Pittsburgh for more studies: As summer approaches, Kornides begins her next internship with the pharmacy department of UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where she continues to gain experience in the field. 

Upon learning of the placement, Rebitch said, “It is so meaningful to see her growth from the beginning of the year to where she is now, and I’m excited to see where she ends up going.” 

This story was written by Justin P. Jones, a student reporter for Pittwire. Are you participating in an interesting or impactful internship this summer? Tell us about it: pittwire@pitt.edu.

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