Illustrated portrait of Mehr Virk
Illustration: John Jay Cabuay

Mehr Virk hadn’t even listened to many podcasts, much less hosted one, before launching her own Life on the Pharm podcast.

In June 2020, as she was starting her final year in the UCSF’s PharmD program, Virk found herself with some unexpected free time – as a result of having two fewer clinical rotations due to COVID-19 restrictions.

She tapped into her creative side, she says, to develop an autobiographical audio journal as well as a road map for her peers: “No one tells you how to navigate the world of pharmacy.”

In early episodes, Virk shared personal insights – on her short-lived TikTok career, pandemic lockdown blues, and participation in Black Lives Matter protests (including their relevance to patient care and health care disparities) – as well as professional observations. She took listeners along on her clinical rotations in the ICU and ED, recounting milestones: making her first recommendation to a physician, attending a trauma call, counseling a patient being discharged, giving an impromptu presentation on urinary tract infections during rounds.

Season two moved with Virk to the UC Davis Health acute care pharmacy residency. Recent topics have ranged from “Bugs and Drugs” and “Med Safety First” to “I need a NAPlex” (a nod to the rigors of preparing for and taking the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination).

Life on the Pharm sometimes diverges from her own narrative, with Virk interviewing other pharmacists “to hear and share their advice and the stories of people who come from different walks of life.” With about 4,000 streams of more than three dozen episodes so far, Virk has found an “incredibly supportive, kind, and positive audience,” she says.

“It’s been a cool way of building a pharmacy community that I don’t get to meet or see but I can connect with,” she adds. “I’ve heard from PharmD students who said it made them feel less stressed and anxious about rotations and excited about starting their PharmD journey.”

Life on the Pharm also helped Virk make the “big jump” from student to practicing clinician. “It’s so hectic and chaotic as a resident. This podcast has made my perspective shift on a lot of things. I’m taking time to process what I saw about myself as I became a pharmacist and remembering why I got into pharmacy. It’s a constant reminder that obstacles and challenges are also opportunities for growth.”

Listen to Life on the Pharm and follow Mehr Virk on Twitter @mehronthepharm

– Janet Wells for UCSF Magazine

Read the Summer 2022 Issue