Veterans Play Key Role in Pharmacy Student's Career Choice

June 24, 2015

The College of Pharmacy welcomes outstanding students to its programs every year that contribute to the college’s diverse student body. Krystal Shirrell became a PharmD student in 2014, bringing with her a broad range of achievements and community service. Krystal is an avid supporter of veterans' causes who first began volunteering at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in high school and continued during her undergraduate career at the University of Iowa. She recalls witnessing firsthand a need for support and encouragement among patients and took initiative upon herself to aid wherever there was need.  

A lifetime Girl Scouts member, Krystal was able to further her efforts through her Girl Scouts Gold Award project. Krystal began making lap blankets as a service to veterans undergoing dialysis treatment, which quickly led her to launch “Veterans Have Earned Our Thanks and Support” (VETSupport), an organization dedicated to the White House initiative of supporting the United States Military, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs initiative to end homelessness among Veterans. VETSupport was formed in conjunction to a non-profit organization founded by Krystal’s sister, Hats of Hope, that provides hats to cancer patients. VETSupport’s service efforts have included monthly Bingo events for homeless Veterans, collection drives for comfort items and supplies, a campaign with over 17,000 thank you pictures distributed to troops and veterans, Christmas trees and care packages sent to troops in Afghanistan, personal visits with Wounded Warriors, and ongoing volunteering at the VA Medical Center. The organization’s success and Krystal’s impactful contributions have drawn national attention, and Krystal was awarded the James H. Parke Scholarship Award for Youth Volunteerism along with a trip to the White House where she was honored by the President.

“The veterans who have crossed my path have made me a better person, but more so than that, they have helped me to define myself in terms of the pharmacist I want to be,” remarks Krystal when asked about her future career. “I want to be a health care professional who truly helps my patients by making them feel comfortable and confident about their medications and treatment, but also by providing them with a listening ear and a sense of hope.” She hopes her time at the College of Pharmacy will lead to future opportunities that would allow her to professionally return to a Veterans Affairs hospital, “I cannot wait to apply what I am learning to my patients in the future. In a perfect world, I’ll be close to my family and be serving our nation’s troops and veterans. I can’t ask for a more ideal situation than that.”

The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy educates the next generation of leaders in pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences through discovery and growth, building excellence, and achieving outcomes that matter.