Commencement 2018: Pharmacy senior hones leadership, community service skills, at URI and beyond

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Joseph Nardolillo
Joe Nardolillo credits the education and experience he's received in the URI College of Pharmacy with preparing him for a future career providing care for under-served populations at home and abroad. Photo by Patrick Luce

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 11, 2018 — Reflecting on his college career, Joseph Nardolillo remembers being shy and not very involved at the start of his freshman year.

But Nardolillo’s time within the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy has taught him to take advantage of every opportunity.

Now, Nardolillo sits on the national board of Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity, leads prospective students through the College of Pharmacy, mentors newly admitted students in URI 101 and coordinates alumni engagement at the Student Alumni Association.

His impressive work extends well beyond the borders of the Kingston campus, however. In addition to working at pharmacies and medical centers throughout Rhode Island, Nardolillo has also volunteered his services abroad.

In underserved parts of the world like Jamaica, Ghana and Guatemala, Nardolillo has had a major impact along with other pharmacy students and professors.

On his first mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica, his freshman year, Nardolillo said he was basically operating as a “pharmacist out of a suitcase. It was a unique experience because pharmacists often aren’t brought along and are many times undervalued on these types of trips,” he said, noting the learning experience was invaluable. “The pharmacist has a way bigger role than just handing out a prescription. You have to make sure that they’re dosing correctly; you have to make sure that it’s not going to harm a patient.”

Since Nardolillo went to Jamaica for the first time several years ago, he’s worked to get more people involved in volunteering their services. Not only have more pharmacy students gotten involved, but Nardolillo has also recruited nursing and physical therapy students to assist in educational workshops and sustainable farming to benefit handicapped children with disease like cystic fibrosis, HIV, and cerebral palsy.

Giving back to underserved communities has been a huge part of Nardolillo’s college experience, and it’s one he’ll be continuing after graduation when he begins his residency at Indian Health Services in New Mexico. Being accepted was “like getting into the Harvard,” Nardolillo said.

His inspiration to apply for such a prestigious program comes from the quality of education he’s received in the College of Pharmacy.

“I want to be able to be a resource, because so many people around me have helped me get to where I am now,” Nardolillo said. “I like that right now I get to make an impact on a patient population in an area of pharmacy that is very underserved at the moment, and that’s where I see myself.”

Nardolillo said he feels prepared because of the strong patient care emphasis the College of Pharmacy has helped instill in students. His countless hours spent learning material in a classroom, and now teaching it as a graduating pharmacy student, were essential to his career, but being taught how to apply that knowledge in situations like in Jamaica has been central to his education. In New Mexico, where Nardolillo will fully manage his patients and have one-on-one interactions, the skills he’s gained from opportunities he’s had here will come into play every day.

“It’s not just a classroom thing,” Nardolillo said. “It’s not just getting a lecture and learning material. It’s how are you going to use that material in the real world? What skills do you also need to build here to then be able to put to use out there? You can have all the information in the world, but if you can’t talk to a patient, if you can’t talk to a doctor, if you can’t be connectable and want somebody to listen to you and want somebody to engage with you, then that knowledge is going to waste.”