"I wanted to show others that any statistic is possible to beat ..."
Alumna Christine E. Bonarrigo's (2020 Pharm.D.) life experiences continue to drive her to help others. She currently works as a pharmacist for S.C. Department of Mental Health, among a variety of other roles from wedding videographer to dog mom, community group leader, and pharmacy preceptor. She reminds us to take the time to seek out genuine connection - and that a small act of kindness can go a very long way.
Tell us about what you do:
Currently I serve as a pharmacist with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. I’m the clinical pharmacist assigned to Morris Village Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center, as well as adjunctly serving as a staff pharmacist at G. Werber Bryan Psychiatric Hospital and William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute. I’ve recently obtained my Substances of Abuse Specialty Certification and Integrative Pharmacy Specialist Certification, and I serve as an APPE preceptor for various pharmacy schools including UofSC.
One of my favorite roles right now is conducting Narcan education with staff and patients, helping increase overdose awareness and how to safely help in an emergent overdose situation. I’m also very interested in process improvement and enjoy collecting and reviewing our institutions’ medication errors while brainstorming mitigation strategies to help prevent future mistakes.
How did you originally get interested in your field?
I grew up in a family that carried a complex set of mental health struggles, and I knew I wanted to specialize in an area that meant a lot to me. In school, psychiatry was so fascinating to me since it was not black and white like many other disease states. It involved critical thinking, problem solving, and attention to detail. It’s almost an art form when it comes to treating mental health, since it’s so patient specific, and there is constantly new literature and research being conducted to further treatment options.
Why did you choose the University of South Carolina?
It’s actually a funny story about how I came to be a Gamecock. I had just moved to South Carolina from Las Vegas and my 5th grade class held a Clemson vs. Carolina day. I impulsively chose UofSC because I liked the colors the best and became a loyal Gamecock fan from that day forward. UofSC was actually the only school I applied to!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Each milestone I hit feels very surreal to me, but my most grateful achievement to date is obtaining my Pharm.D.
I didn’t think college would be obtainable for me when I went into the foster care system and had to support myself. Only 2.5% of those in the foster care system graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and I wanted to show others (and myself) that any statistic is possible to beat (sorry, Dr. Sutton!) Earning my doctoral degree was a monumental moment for me. I’ve been able to connect with several others who are succeeding despite life's obstacles, and it’s what continues to drive me to help others now that I’m in a position where I can.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
On the weekends, I turn in my 'pharmacist' hat and put on my 'wedding filmmaker' hat. I love telling stories and capturing one of the most important days of peoples' lives - and you can find me spending a lot of time in the editing cave. I have 2 dogs who are obsessed with fetch so I’m constantly at the dog park. I also love to exercise, and recently started 'Columbia Girls Who Walk' with my coworker Dr. Tabatha Dillon (2021 Pharm.D.), a weekly walking club here in Columbia for women!
What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?
I’m close to finishing Schitt’s Creek and am convinced David is my spirit animal.
What class or professor do you remember the most from UofSC?
Although there are several - a professor that I will always remember is Dr. James Chapman.
I was making an exam up one evening and after turning it in, he had asked me how my day was going. He knew right away that it wasn’t going well by my sigh and mentioned to stay put and he would be right back. He came back with a box of cookies and said, “You don’t have to tell me what happened - But just remember every time you eat one of these cookies, you will always have not only a professor but friend to talk to.” It was a small act of kindness with a big impact that I will always carry with me.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Cherish the time you have with your friends and loved ones. Relationships and human connection are irreplaceable and nothing else matters more.
What is your advice for current students / future pharmacy professionals?
One of the first things I tell my students on rotation is to make genuine connections. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your professors, preceptors, and colleagues. If you’re nervous, tell your preceptor. If you think highly of them, tell your professor. People will only know the things you tell them. Also, pharmacy is a small world, and you will be remembered more than you think you will, so don’t be afraid to be your true self.
What is top of your bucket list?
To write a memoir!
What song always puts you in a good mood?
'Satellite' by Harry Styles.