PharmD Candidate ‘Dances’ Again


Act I: The Stage Goes Dark

It happened during the last run of a long day’s rehearsal. Gianna Franco was in 11th grade at Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan and part of the teen ensemble of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. A natural talent pursuing her calling, she never thought twice about her next step.

After some 15 years of dancing, she flowed through each move. 未来? She would dance perhaps another 15 years, as long as she could, then pivot as mature dancers do to a related field, 教学或许. What else was there?

“Dance was the only thing that made me feel confident,佛朗哥说. “My love for the art was in the ability to turn everything off and just feel. It was a really freeing experience.”

Franco, whose mother had also danced, cannot remember when she started. Dance was part of her life before her earliest memories.

It turned into “something serious” in middle school. By high school, she spent long days at her craft. Her classes included dance, 还有数学, 英语, social studies and chemistry; once the school day ended, rehearsals with the professional troupe would run late into the evening.

That night toward the end of her junior year, they were rehearsing a Paul Taylor dance called 散步路. Franco had fallen “madly in love” with Taylor’s choreography – the athleticism and the creation of beauty from pedestrian movements like running to the subway.

She was part of an all-female ensemble performing roles meant for both women and men, including over-the-head lifts and other feats of strength. They were going over a series of moves that involved Franco running from a back corner of the huge Taylor stage to the front corner and jumping into other dancers’ arms.

“I’m running full speed,”她说。. “我跳. I get partly caught. And then as my partner loops around to let me go, I’m kind of flailing. I slide a couple of feet and I end up hitting the wall.”

At first, with adrenaline coursing through her, she thought she was fine. But she could not stand on her left leg. Her left kneecap had shifted. Months of physical therapy were not enough to get her back on the dance floor. Not then, not ever. Her doctor said she would never again be able to withstand the vigor of professional dance.

“The only thing I can compare it to is darkness,佛朗哥说. “Dancing was the one time when I felt like I was enough. Having that taken away really made me question everything.”

Act II: An Unlikely Source of Light

Franco’s recovery involved a lot of time at a 24-hour pharmacy superstore in Staten Island, 她长大的地方. She needed medication for pain, of course, and also for depression and anxiety. She was receiving therapy for both the physical and mental damage resulting from the fall.

It was at the superstore that she met a pharmacist named Lauren, then in her early 30s. The first time Franco went in to pick up her medications, Lauren brought her into the counseling room for a half hour. Franco still remembers it with some astonishment, as the store was bustling and there was perhaps one other pharmacist there.

After that initial session, Lauren called Franco every week to check in. As Franco went through different medications and dosing to counter various side effects, Lauren asked about Franco’s pain levels and mood and her experience of the medications’ effectiveness. At some point in Franco’s senior year, their bond had become tight enough that Lauren began asking Franco personal questions. 她是谁?? What were her plans? Franco told Lauren her story.

“It was like a trauma dump,佛朗哥说. “I just felt so safe with her. She was such a light.”

After listening, Lauren asked, “Have you ever considered pharmacy?”

Franco dismissed her. Despite her relationship with Lauren, Franco saw pharmacists as pill counters – and that wasn’t for her. “I wanted to bring joy to people, I wanted to perform,”她说。. But then her mother shared that she had once been a pharmacy technician, and that Franco had several relatives who were pharmacists. Surprised, Franco kept the idea on her mind’s back burner. She even shadowed Lauren on the job.

Out for coffee one day, Franco and her pharmacist-turned-friend Lauren discussed a variety of roles that pharmacists can play – they participate in patient care in hospitals, 例如, and conduct research for drug manufacturers. Franco began to think of pharmacy as a field with wide-open possibilities. Then watching an episode of “Law and Order” one night with her mother, she became intrigued about working with patients in psychiatric facilities.

“You can still bring joy to people,” Franco remembers Lauren telling her. “You’re going to help them feel better. You’re going to help them heal.”

Act III: A Mix-up, then a New Start

So Franco decided to pursue pharmacy. But she was behind in all the things a high school senior must complete to be accepted into college – applications, 校园参观, 面试. She moved fast, scheduled a couple of tours a weekend for three weekends running. The last place on her schedule was the pharmacy school in Albany.  

She arrived when upstate New York is arguably at its worst – a rainy day in the heart of spring mud season – and spent nearly three hours touring a large campus waiting for the attraction she’d come to see. Tired and a little frustrated at tour’s end, she finally asked about the pharmacy school. Her tour guides, at the University at Albany, were flummoxed. You mean Albany College of Pharmacy and 健康科学? That’s not us, they told her.

Franco quickly called ACPHS and reached Kelly Quinn, who is now the senior associate registrar but at the time worked in the admissions office. There was some kind of event on campus that day – an open house, maybe – but it was wrapping up. 佛朗哥发疯了. Quinn told her to take a deep breath; come to ACPHS anyway; Quinn would wait for her.

Despite all the tours Franco had just taken, Quinn was the first admissions counselor she met face to face. And something just clicked.

“She immediately reminded me of Lauren – just like that,佛朗哥说.

Then Quinn did something that Franco found extraordinary. She spent time with her – and did not try to sell her on ACPHS. Just like Lauren, Quinn counseled Franco about her future. 为什么药店? What did she see herself doing in five years, in ten years? To Franco’s surprise, thinking about the future made it clear that pharmacy was the right field for her.  

“I got kind of giddy for the first time in forever,佛朗哥说.

Franco left saying she would come back for a real tour. But she didn’t need to. She applied to ACPHS, determined to enroll.

“I felt safe and I felt comfortable and I felt excited, and I hadn’t felt that way in months,佛朗哥说.

Act IV: Fluid Movement, Again

She was indeed accepted into the pharmacy doctoral program. She trudged through the first two years of rigorous classroom and laboratory instruction, she said. 怀疑起来. She had never had to read textbooks and take good notes before; she credits her roommate Katy Carron ’22 for showing her how.

Her saving grace was working every other weekend with Lauren at the pharmacy in Staten Island.

“That is where I decided I was doing the right thing,佛朗哥说. “Every time I got an insurance claim to go through that we thought wasn’t going to work, that made me feel really good, like I was on the right path.”

In her pharmacy professional years, things started to come together. She loved the skills training – calculations, interpreting prescribers’ orders, understanding over-the-counter drugs, the hands-on experiences that felt like a real pharmacy.

Her movements became fluid again. Just as with a Paul Taylor dance, the ordinary felt extraordinary.

“I learned that I love counseling patients,佛朗哥说. “I love having that interaction.”

今年春天, Franco was accepted into a competitive residency program, at Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey, which she will start after graduating with her pharmacy doctorate in May. She hopes afterward to complete a second-year residency to specialize in forensic pharmacy, a psychiatric specialization that deals with litigation and the criminal justice system.

When she looks back, Franco thinks Lauren, Quinn and even her roommate Carron were among her most important choreographers.

“The people who came into my life at really pivotal points were literally guiding me – hey turn there, 继续, 现在好了, 这种方式,”她说。.

“I feel like I’m dancing again, even though I can’t.”