Heather Cabos is just days away from becoming Heather Cabos, PharmD. When she graduates from The University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy this spring, she will officially take on the titles of “doctor” and “pharmacist.” The gravity and significance of that change are not lost on her.

“Pharmacy is extremely important in my eyes,” Cabos said. “I’ve seen numerous times throughout my rotations where patients have been forgotten or slipped through the cracks. Pharmacists have been the ones to find them and bring them back.”

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Heather Cabos, 2024 UNM College of Pharmacy graduate

Cabos said her job as a future pharmacist and a current pharmacy student is to advocate for patients, especially those who cannot advocate for themselves. Her passion for patient care has not gone unnoticed by university faculty. Cabos spoke very humbly and casually about her accomplishments, but College of Pharmacy Dean Donald Godwin said she has been an outstanding student during her time at UNM. That is why he selected her as this year’s “Inspiring Graduate.”

“I was shocked,” Cabos said. “I have a lot of classmates who are very talented and very much go-getters. So, I was quite surprised when, when I got the email.”

When asked what she was most proud of achieving as a student, she said building patient relationships in her rotations.

“I do not think anything I have done is super significant, in terms of school or college, but I do feel very fortunate to be able to give back to the community,” she said.

Cabos has already taken some of what she has learned back to her hometown community in Alamogordo, NM. She said she’s even been able to help some family members navigate health conditions and medication management, including her grandparents who raised her.

“I actually got into pharmacy because of my grandpa,” Cabos said. “I did not know what I wanted to do when I grew up.”

“It was a big jump because I’ve only been close to my family down south. When I came to UNM, I was very scared, just like most people my age. Being able to make connections with all of the professors, the dean, the whole team, it was very helpful.” – Heather Cabos, Doctor of Pharmacy

But Cabos’s grandpa seemed to know the Pre-Pharmacy program at New Mexico State University would be the perfect fit. After years of convincing Cabos to apply for the program during high school, she finally did and was quickly accepted. Through NMSU’s partnership with UNM, Cabos was guaranteed a spot in the College of Pharmacy to continue her education in Albuquerque.

“It was a big jump because I’ve only been close to my family down south,” she said. “When I came to UNM, I was very scared, just like most people my age. Being able to make connections with all of the professors, the dean, the whole team, it was very helpful.”

With her support system at UNM, Cabos said she was able to navigate pharmacy school amid a global pandemic. She joined several different university organizations and even served as chair and co-chair for some. She was also able to shadow a doctor in the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center to see firsthand how pharmacists help manage medications and mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy.

“It inspired me to keep going and say, ‘you know what, there is way more to pharmacy than I thought.’”

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After graduation, Cabos will continue learning and growing during her residency in Prescott, Ariz. She hopes to expand her knowledge of ambulatory care while she is there.

“It is taking care of patients chronic disease states,” she explained. “So, specifically looking at hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.”

Cabos said she eventually hopes to see her own patients in a clinical setting, recommending different medications and lifestyle changes for them.

“I love the idea of having a more holistic type of care for patients, instead of just forcing them to take medications,” she said.

Cabos also said she can imagine returning home to Alamogordo someday and giving back to the family and community that raised her. She said they are the proudest of her accomplishments and most supportive of her next big move to Arizona.

“I know my grandpa is very proud,” she said. “He tells me that every single time I see him. We lost my grandma back in 2020, when I first started pharmacy school. That kind of rocked my world, and not in the best way. But if I had to guess, I think that she would probably be looking down at me and thinking that she is pretty proud too. I think everyone is ecstatic to have a doctor in the family because there has not been one in my family.”