So where will your Lewis-Clark State College degree take you? Well, perhaps to Bethel, Alaska, like it did for Natasha and Mike Stamper.
This summer, Natasha and Mike celebrated their fifth year with the Yukon Kuskokwim-Health Corporation in Bethel where both are pharmacists and serve an area about the size of the state of Oregon that covers 50 villages, most of them in remote places.
Natasha (nee Hoermann) is a 2004 graduate of LCSC and met Mike, a '05 graduate, while at LCSC. Both were interested in Biology and after graduation they attended pharmacy school at Washington State University, which led to their current positions in Bethel. Natasha is a Clinic Pharmacist who helps the villagers receive their prescriptions. She also works alongside providers in a collaborative practice agreement that allows her to order labs, refill prescriptions, and meet with patients to discuss their medications.
Mike is a Village Operations Pharmacist and his responsibilities also are to provide medications to the hospital’s service area as well as go to villages and inspect the clinics and the company’s remote pharmacies.
Both say the hard work they put in has been worth it because they both love what they do. They credit their education and professors at LCSC for playing a big role in helping them reach their goals.
Natasha grew up in Ririe, Idaho, located about 17 miles northeast of Idaho Falls. She learned about LCSC from then-LC recruiter Andy Hanson, who is now Vice President for Student Affairs at the college. Andy told her about the Foundation Scholarship, which is awarded to high school seniors in Idaho and Asotin County, Washington who have a minimum 3.5 GPA. After being accepted to LCSC, Idaho State and BYU-Idaho, Natasha chose LCSC because of the Foundation Scholarship, which is now worth $3,000 per year.
"Also, my dad had been to Lewiston before and loved the town,” she says. "My family encouraged me to go check it out and we drove the 10 hours and did a tour of the campus. I fell in love with the small community that I felt when I was there. I was an active Foundation Scholarship recipient for all 4 years of my college and it really pushed me to keep my grades up, which ultimately helped me get into Pharmacy School at WSU.”
Natasha says she received a lot of help at LCSC, which helped her choose her career path and ultimately earn her degree in Biology.
"I always thought that I wanted to go to dental school,” she says. "I had science as my focus and went from there. I eventually was set up with a job shadow at a local dental office in Lewiston and decided that looking into mouths was not for me.
"I remember speaking often with my advisor at school, Dr. (Tom) Urquhart and he was very encouraging to keep me going with the Natural Science Division and figure it out as I went. LCSC was the best thing that happened to me. I had so many teachers that helped me and pushed me to keep going even when I was ready to give up. This was especially true with Chemistry. I struggled with test anxiety and Chemistry was my worst subject. Matt Johnston was pivotal in helping me and spent many extra hours explaining things to me.
"I also received great help from the TRIO program at LCSC. I tell everyone I know that if you are struggling, go to TRIO and get help, it turned me around and I passed Chemistry every semester! I eventually found a summer job at the local Walgreens and was able to work as a cashier in the pharmacy. I knew the pharmacist there because she was my teacher aide in one of my Chemistry classes. She was very kind and encouraged me to apply to pharmacy school.”
Outside of the classroom, Natasha says her favorite memory of LCSC was going to the baseball games because she loved the spirit it brought out in the community.
Natasha was accepted into WSU’s Pharmacy School in 2006 and graduated in 2010. She then attended a local career fair to find a pharmacy job and was introduced to someone who also had attended WSU and now worked in a small isolated town in Alaska. He told them about the organization they currently work for.
"My husband and I really wanted to try something new and when we found out that they offered loan repayment through Indian Health Services we decided to make the move,” Natasha said. "My career is very rewarding. I am able to meet with patients and discuss many disease states and address any questions that they may have. I recently became the only HIV Pharmacist at our facility and am doing training with the NW Aids education training center. I really enjoy helping the people of the YK Delta.
"My favorite thing about my job as the Clinic Pharmacist is helping the elders in my community. The region I serve is Yupik Eskimo and there is a language barrier, however, the people are very friendly and appreciative when we can sit down and go over their medications. I am learning a few words in Yupik and they always smile when I try them out.”
Because Mike grew up in Lewiston, he knew about LCSC. Still, he decided to enter the workforce after high school and then returned to LC as a non-traditional student. He says he received great support at the college, which helped him because the first person in his family to earn a four-year college degree (Biology).
"I knew that I always wanted to do something in the medical field,” he says. "I stumbled into pharmacy as a career and now love how I get to interact with the patients. I really found that the Natural Science Division was very supportive. The faculty was always available to answer any question I had and was very encouraging. I was able to take extra classes that may not be available at a bigger university and did not feel like I was lost in the shuffle.”
While attending Pharmacy School at WSU, he worked as a pharmacy intern at Wasem’s in Clarkston.
"My career is very rewarding,” he says. "I am able to help patients on a daily basis. I also get to travel and see different parts of Alaska that are only accessible by air. The Yupik culture is very exciting and the people are very welcoming. My favorite part of my job is being able to help others and learn a new culture.”
Both say the best advice they can offer someone is to just keep working hard because hard work can make anything possible.
"College seems daunting but is worth it in the end,” Mike says.
Biology is a popular major at LCSC for those interested in getting into the medical and dental fields. The Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division’s success rate for placement into professional programs and graduate school is as high as 90 percent or greater.