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Setbacks Prompt Reflection – and Inner Fortitude


Steven Nguyen, College of Pharmacy, ’20, found direction and inner strength from the unlikeliest of places – academic disqualification as an undergraduate. The experience forced him to dig deep, and learn some hard truths. It was a setback he never expected and one that forever changed his outlook.

“It was a wake-up call that life isn’t easy and life isn’t fair,” says Nguyen. “And things aren’t going to be just given to you.”

The academic disqualification came his junior year at UC Irvine as a biology major. He admits he had been “flaking,” not knowing what he wanted to do. Still, it came as a surprise to both him and his family.

“I was the first one in my extended family to be academically disqualified,” he explains. “It forced me to do some soul searching to see what I wanted to do.”

The experience helped to focus him as he continued taking community college classes to get back into good academic standing. He ultimately did get back in good standing and finished his degree at UC Irvine.

Along the way, he strengthened his relationships with his family members. “I wasn’t opening up to them then as much as I am now,” he says.

Throughout all of this, he had been consistently working in a pharmacy as a pharmacy technician, a span that totaled seven years. It gave him the opportunity to see how pharmacists work to help people live healthier lives. He knew that was the path he wanted to pursue and applied to Ketchum University for graduate school.

“I had the goal of pharmacy early on, but I didn’t put in the work,” he says. “Now I put in the work.”

His choice of the medical field as a profession was confirmed for him in December 2016 when his father was hospitalized for heart problems and ultimately underwent heart surgery.

“I got to see the front lines of health care and saving lives,” says Nguyen.

Nguyen says his studies at Ketchum University are “definitely more challenging than undergraduate school” but he is committed and putting in the hard work.

“If you put in the hard work now, you don’t have to struggle as much down the road,” he says. “It is a longdistance marathon and I have to keep going at my own pace and not let anything distract me.”

Nguyen is drawn to pharmacy work, not just because it is in the medical field, but because he enjoys interacting with people and the job will allow him to do that.

“I’m a people person. I like to interact with them. But I also would like to be part of the medical profession,” he says.

In his free time, Nguyen is an avid rock climber, but pretty much loves anything outdoors.

Nguyen isn’t sure yet if he will work in a retail pharmacy, a private setting or hospital, but he knows he has chosen the right field. He grew up in Irvine, Calif., and plans to stay in Southern California after graduation.

“I always had the goal of pharmacy,” he says.