AUSTIN, Texas—When Michelle Crawford stands with her fellow classmates in the College of Pharmacy for UT Austin’s convocation ceremonies on Saturday (May 22), she will no doubt share many of their thoughts concerning their college experience — academic achievements, professional development and lifelong friendships.
Crawford will have unique memories as well — such as the May afternoon two years ago that might have brought an end to her dreams of earning a pharmacy degree.
On Tuesday, May 27, 1997, Crawford had just completed her second year of pharmacy school and had accepted a summer position as a pharmacy technician at an Austin-area business. It was her first day at work. The weather was typical of an Austin spring — frequent rain showers with warnings of potential severe weather. Her thoughts centered on her new job, not the skies overhead.
Little more than an hour later, however, the weather commanded her attention as a killer tornado ripped the roof from the building, throwing Crawford to the ground and tossing nearby store fixtures on top of her. In the aftermath, the storm destroyed the store, and left a wake of destruction, injuries, and death throughout the area including massive damage to nearby Jarrell, Texas. Fortunately, Crawford wasn’t seriously injured.
“I remember thinking in slow motion,” she recalled. “I saw the faces of my family flash before my eyes. I thought I was going to die.”
The Fort Worth native, who will be one of nearly 6,000 UT Austin students graduating this spring in UT Austin’s 7 p.m. evening ceremony on the South Terrace of the Main Building, said she was haunted by dreams of the tragic afternoon for months after the storm. The images of May ’97 are still embedded in her memory, but they no longer dominate her thoughts. She persevered, completing her summer employment in a makeshift pharmacy, and continued her education to discover that she had a special talent for clinical pharmacy.
In July, she will begin a one-year postgraduate pharmacy practice residency in adult medicine, critical care, and infectious diseases under the direction of Dr. Robert Talbert, UT professor of pharmacotherapy.
“Clinical pharmacy provides an opportunity for a pharmacist to actively participate in patient care,” she explained. “In this environment, I have input into what medications to use, how to monitor the patient, and what, if any, adjustments should be made in the medication therapy,” she explained “I use my education to evaluate, draw conclusions and make recommendations. I’ve been able to make a difference.”
“Michelle is very intelligent: she interacts extremely well with all kinds of people. She’s a very hard worker,” Talbert said. “What more could one ask in a resident?”
Like many of her pharmacy student colleagues, she has participated in numerous extracurricular activities. She has served as president of Phi Lambda Sigma, the pharmacy leadership society; and has led several committees within the Academy of Students of Pharmacy, the College’s largest student organization. She also is a member of numerous other pharmacy student professional organizations, participating in what the college calls “its invisible curriculum” that fosters professionalism among students.
The storm seems years away this May as her attentions are focused upon graduation and her upcoming residency; however, Crawford says the lessons learned from the experience are still very near at hand.
“I learned to never again ignore a dark sky, to tell people often that I love them, and to appreciate life,” she said.