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From OneGoal Fellow to Doctor of Pharmacy: Meet Dr. Navarro

By Caleb Navarro
June 29, 2022

In 2010, Caleb Navarro started his first year of high school lacking interest in classes with no plan for the future. But through guidance from people who believed in him and a lot of perseverance, he earned his PharmD from Roosevelt University and will soon begin his post-graduate residency at The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Caleb sat down with us for a conversation about his journey, the lessons he learned along the way, and where he’s headed next.

Dr. Caleb Navarro at his recent graduation ceremony where he received his PharmD from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

You’ve just completed your Doctor of Pharmacy degree–how are you feeling?!
If I had to choose a single word, it would be relief.

It takes a lot of courage and determination to pursue the high goals we set for ourselves. For many people, there can be several different situations or conflicts that prevent people from reaching those goals. Throughout my journey, there were many times I thought I couldn’t make it.

In the beginning, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome and self-doubt over whether or not I was truly cut out for what I had signed up to do. After a while, fatigue and exhaustion began to set in, and I began to question why I was putting myself through so much when I could just look for an easier path forward. There was also the challenge of pursuing education through a pandemic that took a massive toll on everyone and became even harder after losing three of my uncles within weeks of each other due to COVID.

There were so many obstacles in my way that could have easily stopped me from making it as far as I have, but I was able to weather the storm. The sense of relief that came with knowing that I reached the end of such a difficult chapter of life is incredible. It also boosted my confidence, knowing that despite all that I have faced along the way, I was still able to do something extraordinary, and I’m thankful for everyone I’ve met along the way that has made this journey easier.

Looking back at your experience as a OneGoal Fellow, how did the knowledge and skills you gained prepare you for your postsecondary pathway?
It has been close to a decade since I first became involved with OneGoal, and even longer since I first met [my Program Director] Drew [Stricker]. Back in 2010, when I was just a freshman in high school, Drew was my first-period algebra teacher. Even though he barely knew me outside the classroom and saw my lack of interest or effort initially, he somehow knew I had the potential to really push myself further. Although he was no longer my teacher, the following year, he encouraged me to join this program that would help me pursue and persist through higher education.

Until then, I hadn’t even considered that type of future for myself. Over the next few years, I saw improvement in myself that would not have been possible if I didn’t have the tools and resources available to me and someone who would be there to push me to be the best person I could be. It was that push I needed that got me through the completion of my bachelor’s degree, which is what OneGoal strives to accomplish.

Because of the foundation I built in those formative years, I knew I still had the drive to go further. Through partnering with Drew and OneGoal, they showed me that even if I thought I reached my limit, I could strive to push forward and attain it anyway. I went from a place of complacency over ten years ago to someone driven to make the most of their opportunities and use my skill set to its true potential.

That’s something I don’t think could have happened without that initial push and is certainly one of the most formative experiences I had as a teenager, even if I didn’t always see it that way back then. After completing my PharmD, I can see just how instrumental it can be to have access to a program like OneGoal and mentors like Drew in genuinely transforming the trajectory of someone’s life for the better. And I’m so thankful to have been a part of that.

What advice would you have for OneGoal Fellows?
My advice for current OneGoal Fellows is to challenge yourselves. Each of you can transform yourself, even if you don’t see it yet. Progress isn’t something that happens overnight, and you won’t see an immediate difference, but that’s okay! Don’t think any less of yourself if you aren’t immediately reaching where you want to be because once that happens, it’s so easy to simply give up and settle for less.

As a OneGoal alum, I know that sometimes you may not always see the initial benefit in what you’re doing now. This is still the formative phase, and you have a long way to continue growing. The more effort you put in now, the greater the reward will be later on, and all the hard work and dedication will undoubtedly pay off.

Don’t try to compare yourself to anyone but yourself, and you will see just how far you’ve actually grown. As long as you can continue pushing yourself and making the most of every opportunity given, you can truly forge yourself into whoever you want to be.

Now that you completed your PharmD, what’s next for you?
For those unfamiliar with the pharmacy or medical field, there are a variety of options available to graduates after obtaining a PharmD. Many will finish their licensing and begin working right away at a community pharmacy that most people will be familiar with, such as CVS or Walgreens. Others will pursue post-graduate training, or a PGY1, which focuses more on further developing clinical skills and patient care in the hospital setting. I will be completing a PGY1 residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

This is an incredible opportunity to practice at one of the top institutions in the entire country, where my co-residents and I will continue our learning and focus on specialization within our clinical interests, as well as work directly with doctors and other practitioners to provide the best quality care to our diverse patient population. Upon completion of post-graduate training, which can take up to two years, I will be able to specialize in a field of my choosing, which currently is in oncology, or working with cancer patients. I plan on continuing to work in an inpatient hospital for my career and may eventually consider becoming a professor down the line. Only time will tell!

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