Featured Bonner: Joseph McPeak

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Joseph McPeak, Class of 2013

Pictured (front) on a Rhodes Rebuilds project site.

Hometown: Fort Smith, Arkansas

 Major: Chemistry

What type of service are you engaged with? Why are you interested in this type of service?

My primary service area involves the pharmaceutical workings at the Church Health Center, a not-for-profit clinic focused on catering to the working and uninsured individuals within the greater Memphis community. The specific role I play in the Church Health Center′s mission is this. Prescription medications are expensive. 90% of medication cost is because of patent laws and the enforcement of said patents by giant drug corporations. Within these corporations there exist many programs to allow for patients who are in need and cannot afford expensive medications due to a lack of insurance. Unfortunately, it would just be ludicrous to offer these programs easily; thus, complex paperwork must ensue. That′s where I come in. I bridge the gap between our patients at the Church Health Center and the complex processes involved within providing their medications at little to no cost. My motives for this type of service are simple. I am constantly fascinated with how such a small amount of foreign substance may greatly improve a person′s health. Working with these medications allows me to constantly learn new scientific mechanisms involved with medicinal treatment. The more I learn the more I can help people in my future studies. It′s truly a full circle endeavor for me.

Science isn′t all I do though. I also enjoy being part of an extremely beneficial program entitled Rhodes Rebuilds. Students within this group take their time off to travel to communities outside our own that have suffered a natural disaster and are in need of unskilled labor to rebuild once flourishing neighborhoods. Twice a year I enjoy taking a break from academia to travel to these areas, primarily New Orleans post Katrina, to offer a helping hand with the rebuilding process. I have no ties to my major or future plans within this work, which just might make it all the more integral to my happiness as a service minded individual.

What has been the most meaningful service experience for you?

The most meaningful experience in my service work occurs when patients approach our clinic truly angry that they are unable to obtain the medications they need. Often times patients will yell at me asking what it is they′re supposed to do when they run out, especially in the cases of diabetes (Type I) and other illnesses that require routine administration. It′s encouraging for me and the others involved when I can not only assist the situation but calm the patient personally, sometimes even just by listening. I don′t prescribe any medications; I merely assist with acquisition. Therefore one of the most valuable services I can provide in most cases is my ears. Sickness is unavoidable and medications are scarce, but the feeling of being alone in your time of need? We can prevent that pretty easily.

What is your favorite experience that the Bonner Program has given you?

Hands down the greatest thing about the Bonner Program are my fellow Bonners. I′ll be the first to admit that I tend to find my own crowd pretty quickly and rarely do I deviate from that crowd once I′ve found it. However, I am nothing like my fellow Bonners and they are nothing like me. And that′s what makes this whole program the greatest opportunity I′ve been given. The Bonner Program through my eyes is all about fostering community within our own program and student body before we ever even attempt to help out the communities outside of our immediate Bonner family. I want to know that when I′m struggling someone else is, too. And when things are going great, I can call someone up and celebrate because my fellow Bonners know just what a true victory in service work feels like.

How does your service relate to your major/future career plans?

I am currently a pre-pharmacy student focused on matriculation into the Pharmacy graduating class of 2017. Therefore it′s no surprise that my work at the Church Health Center directly coincides with my career goals in the long term sense. I ultimately intend to take what I learn in the classroom and extrapolate pharmaceutical methodologies and practices to areas where there may not be any effective apothecary practice. That′s the dream anyway. Realistically that may not happen, but I intend to never lose sight of helping others. It′s kind of selfish to pursue higher learning and not find a way to use it for everyone′s benefit, isn′t it?