Illustrating the Versatility of Pharmacy

TTUHSC residency alumni Joseph Zorek’s new book finds unique ways to capture the interest of young readers

Interprofessional practice in pharmacy: featuring illustrated case studies

Image cropped from the book's front cover. Copyright 2021 by McGraw Hill. All rights reserved.


The new vision at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) aims to transform health care through innovation and collaboration. Our vision is not only about the biggest names in science and leadership—everyone plays a vital role. This series seeks to highlight innovative individuals and groups that work together to create transformative ideas and shape health care, revealing what makes this university extraordinary.

The journey that led Joseph A. Zorek, PharmD, BCGP, FNAP, to his current position at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) has not been a traditional one. It is only fitting, therefore, that his new book, Interprofessional Practice in Pharmacy: Featuring Illustrated Case Studies, is anything but a traditional textbook.

First Experiences in Education

Joseph Zorek, PharmD

Joseph A. Zorek, PharmD, BCGP, FNAP

Now a tenured associate professor at UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing and the director of the university’s quality enhancement plan—Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration (LINC)—Zorek started his professional career as an educator: first teaching English in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, then high school psychology, sociology and world history in Oak Lawn, Illinois, near his home town.
“I started thinking about changing careers pretty quickly,” said Zorek. “Influenced by my Fulbright experience, I felt compelled to be part of a larger conversation. I wanted my work to have national and international impact, in other words, in addition to local impact.”
When Zorek first entertained a future in health professions, he discovered an interest in pharmacy for both personal and practical reasons. Since his mother was a nurse, Zorek was raised with a respect for the power of medications. The most compelling reason, Zorek explained, was about projected opportunities in the field. 
“When I decided to pursue pharmacy, the PharmD degree was a relatively new national standard, and the education and training of PharmDs seemed poised to have a major impact on healthcare,” Zorek said. Having found a new career path, Zorek set off to pursue pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

While earning his PharmD at UIC, Zorek met a professor named Nick Popovich, who became his advisor. A man who has built a national reputation as an educational scholar in pharmacy, Popovich also served as the President of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
“Nick helped me realize that education was a calling, and he encouraged me to pursue a career in academic pharmacy,” said Zorek. “Having sworn off education when I left teaching high school to pursue pharmacy, I can promise you that the joke is not lost on my family and friends that I left a career as a teacher to pursue a career as a teacher,” Zorek jokingly explained.

comic book style art depicting a woman in a hospital speaking to a nurse about matters in pharmacy

From Relapse: An Illustrated Case Study

Story by Natalie S. Schmitz & Joseph A. Zorek

Illustration by George Folz, Copyright 2020 McGraw-Hill Education

As the next step in pursuit of that career, Zorek chose residency training at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC).
“I chose TTUHSC for a variety of reasons, but one of the most compelling was that the program in Amarillo had a heavy emphasis on teaching and scholarship,” Zorek said. 
During his time at TTUHSC, Zorek began developing expertise in interprofessional practice and education (IPE)—a field that was poised for impact and growth and fit naturally with his background in education and social science. 
“Incredible mentors at TTUHSC, especially Cindy Raehl and Eric MacLaughlin, really helped jumpstart my scholarship,” said Zorek. “A full decade on, the desire to create large-scale impact—which led me to pharmacy in the first place—has materialized through my work in IPE.”
After completing his residency at TTUHSC, Zorek joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where he worked to expand IPE opportunities for students and shape health professions education through creative scholarship. From there, he was recruited by several universities to lead campus-wide IPE initiatives, and currently leads LINC, UT Health San Antonio’s university-wide effort to advance IPE.
Since a nontraditional approach to pharmacy provided him with a fresh perspective, Zorek was able to combine his knowledge of IPE and the pharmacy profession into one instructive body of work. Zorek’s new book stands out in many ways—providing not only a straightforward approach to the pharmacy profession, but offering uniquely illustrated case studies that capture readers’ attention and invite further exploration.

Drawing an Interest in Pharmacy Practice

comic book style depiction of a child taking pills and a woman looking surprised

From Accidental: An Illustrated Case Study

Story by Jessica M. Bergsbaken & Joseph A. Zorek

Illustration by George Folz, Copyright 2020 McGraw-Hill Education

Interprofessional Practice in Pharmacy: Featuring Illustrated Case Studies, published this year, is described by McGraw-Hill as an “accessible, in-depth exploration of pharmacists working to advance the safe and effective use of medications.” Aimed at prospective and early learners in pharmacy, Zorek explains that it’s the purpose of the book that truly sets it apart. While the text delves deeply into content related to drug therapy, it is intended as a career exploration and inspiration guide. 
“It's everything I learned during my transition from non-pharmacist to pharmacist all wrapped up in a single book,” said Zorek. “This profession is expansive… and the earlier students learn about these opportunities, the better prepared they will be to find a career path that will sustain them.”
The concept of an illustrated case study occurred to Zorek many years before his book took shape.
“Case studies are so ubiquitous that, in my opinion, they've grown stale,” said Zorek. “During pharmacy school, residency, and as a faculty member, I was just bored with the approach—and I had a hunch that my students were, too.”
Zorek’s own daughters helped spark the idea to enliven the case study methodology.
“When my daughters were about 6 and 8 years old, they were obsessed with graphic novels,” explained Zorek. “One day, picking up all of these graphic novels to help put them back on their shelves, it occurred to me that there might be an opportunity to tell case studies through professionally rendered art.”
This once-fleeting idea actualized about a year later, during preparations for an interprofessional education event involving pharmacy, medical and nursing students.
“Our planning team wanted to use a case study, so the opportunity to experiment with illustrations emerged. I was also fortunate to have some funds available to hire a professional artist named George Folz,” said Zorek. “The students loved that first illustrated case, and at that moment I knew that this was an incredible way to communicate complex concepts in health care.”
Now, Zorek hopes this method will help clarify details within the profession and surprise those who might have originally passed on the opportunity to pursue pharmacy as a career. 

Collaboration in the Pharmacy Profession

According to Zorek, an essential part of this book is the interprofessional elements of pharmacy practice. The title intentionally draws attention to this aspect of the text. 

comic book style depiction of multiple disciplines working together in medicine

From Type 1: An Illustrated Case Study

Story by Chloe R. Schmidt & Joseph A. Zorek

Illustration by George Folz, Copyright 2020 McGraw-Hill Education 

“Interprofessional practice in pharmacy is critical, especially for millennials and gen-Zers who tend to naturally value and expect connections, collaborations, and for teams to be part of their work and careers,” said Zorek. “A lot of innovation in IPE is driven by pharmacy, and I believe this is because medications are like vectors that connect pharmacists with numerous different health professionals.”
Zorek clarified that there are many meaningful opportunities for pharmacists to help improve the use of medications, not just with patients and their families, but with other health professionals as well.
“One of the myths about pharmacy is that pharmacists work in silos, disconnected from other health professionals,” said Zorek. “This couldn't be more untrue in 2021. It's virtually impossible to practice pharmacy without interprofessional teamwork and collaboration.”
Zorek’s book busts this myth using an innovative approach that hopes to inspire the next generation of pharmacists. 


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