Like many of you, my background is in the allopathic pharmacy field and I hold a PharmD from St. John’s University. I graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2013, distinguished by Rho Chi and Phi Lambda Sigma honor societies, and tied for third highest GPA for the entire College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences graduating class.
Bushy-tailed and wide eyed, I was super excited to put my newfound knowledge into practice. However, I soon discovered that I wasn’t particularly aligned with any of the myriad of pharmaceutical paths available to me.
None of the diverse rotations or internships I’d experienced as a student really called to me. Neither did pursuing additional training in a residency or fellowship program. I should’ve been at the top of the world, proud of my achievements and ready to jump into the next chapter… but found myself in a major conundrum and at the verge of depression instead.
I realized at the precipice of graduation that I may have just made the biggest mistake of my life.
My skills called on me to be a drug expert, but I wanted nothing more than to see people thriving without drugs.
…because what I learned in pharmacy school was so much more than drug therapy! I also learned about the value and power of non-pharmacological approaches as first-line therapy, no matter what the disease state.
And what I experienced working in the retail setting, and being a patient going through the healthcare system myself, reinforced this deep truth.
The reality as I saw it was that the health system was rigged for failure and a wasteful use of resources.
We were focusing on changing clinical outcomes and endpoints utilizing targeted drug therapy very late in the game, rather than identifying earlier markers of health and disease.
We were overly focused on prescribing a ‘pill for every ill’ rather than focusing on prevention and public health.
We systematically followed the guidelines but did not question how the guidelines were established in the first place, and by whom, and who they really served.
We started on the healthcare path to help people with selfless compassion, but found ourselves powerless and lacking autonomy to make any real changes in the one industry that wasn’t supposed to be corrupt.
I identified with my patients and deeply cared about finding better, less invasive, and more sustainable solutions to support their health. I believed with all my heart that there was a better way, and wished I knew more about alternatives so I could educate others and make an impact.
So the next logical step for me was to stop beating myself up for choosing the wrong major and getting a useless degree.
Instead, I understood that I learned powerful lessons not in spite of becoming a pharmacist, but because of it. Being behind the counter and dispensing countless amounts of medications that did little to address root causes, and had lots of potential risks and toxicity associated with them, was what pushed me to seek deeper answers and solutions. So instead of starting over in a completely different industry, I chose to repurpose the skills that I already had and channel them in another direction.
Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. I worked in the retail pharmacy setting by day, and spent thousands of dollars and hours gaining additional skills and planning an exit strategy from an unfulfilling and unaligned role by night.
But this pursuit for a better way beyond the “straight and narrow” was not done alone. Of course, I attempted to figure it all out on my own, but eventually realized I needed support and guidance.
I’m grateful for it now because it has made me a better coach and mentor but… I made A LOT of mistakes along the way that I learned later. Most of them were very simple business strategies I knew nothing about and I accidentally made life way harder on myself than it needed to be.
Once I worked up the courage to ask for guidance, the path was still challenging but no more challenging than school or anything else I pursued in life.
I hired a number of mentors and coaches to help me bridge the gap in the areas I was not proficient in. I mean… when I started I knew NOTHING about business.
But the guidance was only one element. It also took me sitting down with my partner and truly communicating with him where I was at, the change in direction I wanted to make and the support I would need from him to get there.
After meandering through various training programs in health coaching, nutrition and functional medicine, I was drawn to explore an alternative way of practicing pharmacy.
It was something that never occurred to me, even though I was always fascinated by blending natural therapies with modern medicine. I just never thought to become an alter ego of traditional pharmacy by literally turning to the roots of our profession, which indeed are steeped in herbalism (excuse all the puns)!
So I explored a local herb shop, and arranged for an unpaid internship.
Fascinated with all the plants and their properties, I decided to dive even deeper and pursued a formal 3-year clinical herbalism program.
I felt at home here. Everything I’d learned in and outside of pharmacy school had come together in the herbalism field.
Moreover, I found myself at a great advantage over my classmates in regards to digesting and absorbing the material. Knowing the jargon of pharmacy, and having the understanding of pharmacology gave me a huge leg up.
It was like pharmacy gave me the strong backbone, and now I was layering in a variety of diverse colors, textures, and shades of herbal therapeutics. What I learned about plant medicine went way beyond reducing plants to their mechanical parts and extracting the coveted pharmacological activity from various constituents.
I was immersed in learning about the energetics, the qualitative properties, the botany, and the very intricacies of the spiral lattices that govern every living being in the natural world…I felt connected to all of the brilliant humans who studied and classified herbal medicine before me – because this knowledge was universal and transcendental.
In addition to learning how and what plants can do for us, I found myself gaining a deeper understanding of interdependence of all living ecosystems and the importance of diversity in the natural world. Seeing that we are all connected and in constant relation to each other ultimately gave me a grasp of how to live a meaningful human existence.
I wanted to pay it forward and show the next generation of pharmacists that it’s possible to have a successful career as a natural-minded pharmacist, and began researching and interviewing others on this path. I created a podcast featuring the stories and trajectories of pharmacists and other industry leaders of holistic, integrative and functional medicine.
Before I knew it, more and more pharmacists inspired by my path started reaching out to me and asking to pick my brain… and all of a sudden people began asking to pay me for my guidance.
At that point I saw an opportunity to continue paving a new path for many to follow after me.
I quickly learned that:
All of this reminded me what fulfilling your purpose actually feels like and I realized at that point there was no going back, only forward.
Marina Buksov is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist (PharmD), Health Coach, Herbal Educator, and lifelong learner of the Healing Arts. She is the creator of Build Your Holistic Herbal Practice course mentoring other healthcare professionals in clinical herbal as well as business skills. She is also a Functional Medicine Pharmacist as part of PharmToTable telehealth platform.
Marina guides practitioners to rediscover their passion for medicine by expanding their mind and clinical skills to include natural, holistic, alternative and herbal medicine from which conventional pharmacy practice originated! She believes in honoring plants as food and medicine for sustainable & sovereign health.
When she is not working or studying, Marina likes to dance, paint, and tinker with various concoctions (tea blends, meals, DIY projects). She lives with her husband, two adorable kiddos and two mischievous kitties in NYC.
It is time to protect and cherish our Earth, our bodies, our minds, and souls. We can do that by creating a call to action, eradicating current bad practices that are calmly accepted by society, and establishing newer, better, cleaner lifestyles.
We can eat real, whole foods, produced by organic farms and humane facilities. We can recycle, reuse and repurpose goods to reduce waste. We can change our consumption of chemically processed food and goods, and instead use clean, natural alternatives. We can invest in renewable energy-source products instead of contributing to pollution and oil drilling.
On this website I share my personal thoughts and ideas on my blog, and recipes for meals as well as cosmetic and home DIY products. I believe it is possible to live authentically, purely and rawly. Will you join me in my mission?
Have a story, recipe, or new idea, you’d like to share with me, then request an interview