Meet Jennifer Gilarde, the Pediatric Transplant Team’s pharmacist.

By Cara Gillotti

How did you choose pharmacy as a career?
In college, I debated going to medical school, pharmacy school, or becoming a nurse. Then I had a professor who was a retired pharmacist, and he pulled me aside and said, “Jennifer, you’re really good at teaching patients and families about medicines. What would you think about exploring pharmacy as a career?” And I said, “Sure, I’ll try it!” So I started applying to pharmacy schools, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What got you into transplant pharmacy, in particular?Early in my career, I learned one of my “skills” was talking to people. Counseling families and patients about their medications is something so important for transplant patients, and it is my favorite part of my job! I enjoy empowering the families and patients with the knowledge they need to understand why their medications are so important.

What do you enjoy most about your job here?

Well, I definitely enjoy collaborating with everyone on our team. But I have to say, my favorite part of practicing transplant pharmacy at Boston Children’s is that I get to spend time with kids and their families, helping them really learn what the medicines are and why they’re all so important.

What are you most proud of as it relates to your work?

Pharmacists have worked diligently over the last few decades to establish ourselves as an important part of the medical team. I am proud that I have gained the trust of the providers I work with and with the families I help take care of and that they all recognize the importance of having a pharmacist as a part of the team.

How has transplant changed over the course of your career?

When I was in school, there were only a handful of pharmacists who specialized in transplant. Now, pharmacists are a vital part of all transplant teams. As new medications are developed, and we continue to understand the complexity of the medications we use, there is always something new and exciting for pharmacists who practice in the field of transplant!

What has been your favorite vacation so far?

Going to Australia! My little sister moved there a number of years ago, and I finally decided to be adventurous and take a trip there myself. The plane ride was an adventure all on its own, because it’s a really long one, and I was with a toddler. But we made it, and I really enjoyed Australia! Beautiful countryside, beautiful people, and it was so neat to explore a whole new culture.

Are you originally from New England?

I actually grew up in the South. I spent most of my time living in Florida and went to pharmacy school in Alabama. So I was not very familiar with New England and all that it has to offer–like snow!–until I met my husband and moved up here.

Did anything about New England surprise you?

Definitely driving. I’m still getting used to the idea of driving around Boston. In fact, in the ten years that we’ve lived here, I’ve only gotten behind the wheel twice. I’m trying to convince myself that I can learn how to drive up here and navigate these roundabouts!

What hobbies or interests do you enjoy outside of work?

When I’m not at work, my favorite thing to do is to be a mom. I have two small children—my son is four and a half, and my daughter is 20 months old. I absolutely love playing Legos, or make believe, or dress up, or whatever they are into. They inspire me so much every day.

When you were little, what’s the first thing you wanted to be when you grew up?

When I was really little, I wanted to work at Sea World. It was my dream to be the killer-whale trainer. Actually, that inspired me to continue along the science pathway, because I wanted to be a marine biologist or an oceanographer or something that had to do with working with Shamu!

If you could pick a job outside of pharmacy, what would it be?

Something about being in the restaurant business sounds really enticing and exciting to me, but I have absolutely zero skill in the kitchen. Unless it comes in a box, I don’t cook it. So it would be pretty farfetched to me to explore that job, but it does sound romantic and exciting to work in a fancy restaurant. Even things like the size of the plate that you serve something on, or how the lighting is – that’s all fascinating to me.