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Vernon man achieves highest pharmacist licensing exam grade in Canada

The Canadian Pharmacists Association presents the award annually to the top student
Zachary Kronbauer is from Vernon. (Contributed)

One of Vernon’s own has landed a Dean George A. Burbidge Award for his exemplary exam grades.

The award is given to the student who achieves the highest mark on the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada’s qualifying exams, and this year it was Zachary Kronbauer to receive the superlative.

Kronbauer was born and raised in Vernon, and for most of his life, he knew that healthcare was to be his focus.

“I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field, caring for people and also challenging my brain with the sciences. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after the bachelor of science, I just went into it kind of wanting to explore,” Kronbauer said.

Kronbauer’s passion for the sciences and medicine isn’t something that runs in his family, and he’ll be the first to work in healthcare.

“A lot of my family either doesn’t have post-secondary education, or the ones that do are teachers or other things,” he said.

Eventually, after exploring the vast amount of potential fields, he landed on his specialty.

“I thought about medicine, optometry, but I landed on pharmacy because I really liked my courses in biochemistry and chemistry and thought it would be a good mix of both,” he said.

He also spent time working at a community pharmacy, and after getting a trial run of the environment and working with pharmacists, Kronbauer said he decided he could picture himself doing it for the rest of his life.

Kronbauer spent three years studying general sciences at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus before he transferred to the University of Alberta to pursue his Doctor of Pharmacy.

He received his degree in 2022 and just finished his year-long term working as a pharmacy resident with Alberta Health Services.

Kronbauer said receiving the letter that he achieved the top marks was a complete surprise.

“I did not expect it at all. We all work so hard,” he said.

At the end of the final semester for fourth-year students at U of A, there’s a one-month study period before the exam. Kronbauer spent his month studying for at least eight hours a day, breaking only to sleep and eat, or watch his favourite sitcom, Friends.

“I’m really proud of this achievement. Being a new practitioner you’re expecting yourself to know all these things, and you’re starting to get feelings of imposter syndrome,” Kronbauer said. “Then you kind of think back on all the work you’ve put in, and you do know lots of stuff. It may not always come to you and you may have to look things up, but it is nice to know I can feel confident and I am a pharmacist now.”

Kronbauer said if he could, he would remind the younger version of himself who was dreaming of this career, to enjoy the process and not lose sight of all of the things he did along the way. For the present-day Kronbauer, he’s looking forward to diving in.

“I’m just excited just to fit myself into the healthcare team. In a hospital you definitely work in a more collaborative environment,” he said.

“I’m really excited to learn all the other aspects of being a hospital pharmacist.”

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