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Irina Khiyayeva COP, ’21: Working to Improve the Health of Communities


College of Pharmacy at Marshall B. Ketchum University student Irina Khiyayeva, COP, ‘21, knows what it’s like to live in a country without access to medication and proper medical care.

Irina and her family came to the United States in the 1990s as political refugees from the former Soviet Union. She remembers the scarcity of medicine and some forms of medical care.

“When we lived in the Soviet Union it was extremely difficult to find proper medicine,” she says. “The government was corrupt and people all over were searching for freedom.”

Working to Serve the Health Needs of Communities

Irina’s father nearly lost an eye due to an injury while serving in the Soviet Army. The only reason he did not is that his brother traveled over 1,000 miles to St. Petersburg to get the needed medication. This family incident left a lasting impact on Irina.

Irina, who is vice president of her class, says she chose the pharmacy profession, in part, because she wants to ensure communities have access to adequate medications so they would not need to travel far, as her uncle did. She will likely choose to work in a community pharmacy after graduation.

“I have always wanted to give back by being in a pharmacy career, to also educate patients about the importance of taking medication to improve their well-being,” she says. “The biggest reason I chose pharmacy is the patient interaction and helping the less fortunate.”

Journey to MBKU

Irina’s family settled in Atlanta, Georgia after leaving the Soviet Union in hopes that their lives would be better under a new regime. Irina graduated from Kennesaw State University with a degree in biology. Later, she applied to pharmacy programs and chose MBKU because its professors and administrators “expands students’ interactions.”

“And I love that it is a brand new pharmacy program that stems from a top notch optometry and PA school,” adds Irina, who says the newness invites innovation.

Irina particularly enjoys the community health fairs organized by MBKU and has volunteered in several. She adds that she is honored to serve as vice president of her class.

“In a world full of distractions, this role finds the time to dedicate attention to our classmates and to make our time spent here a memorable one.” she says of her class office.

“Open to Go Anywhere”

Irina says she is “open to go anywhere” after graduation to work in a community pharmacy.

“My main goal is to improve the quality of life for people and educate people to take better care of themselves,” she says. “I want to work in a retail pharmacy where you really get the one on one connection with patients.”

In her free time, Irina enjoys dog walking and dog sitting. She also considers herself a “big foodie” and frequently visits new restaurants and often tries new foods.