Pharmacy student awarded Fulbright scholarship

Health care is one of the most complicated issues facing Americans today and one that affects everyone. Pacific student David Carranza, who is receiving his Doctor of Pharmacy degree May 18, is well on his way to being one of the influencers shaping policy in the future.

Carranza has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study health care policy in Finland.

"I was on my way to the daily nursing rounds, and I got a notification on my phone that said, 'Congratulations,'" Carranza said. "I was completely shocked. I was stunned."

Carranza is one of about 1,600 American students to receive scholarships this year from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Named for Sen. J. William Fulbright, the scholarships provide academic exchanges to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.

"The most important part is identifying a country where you can grow the most and be a cultural ambassador," Carranza said. Exploring an interdisciplinary path at Pacific - Carranza also earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 2016 - has prepared him for this course of study.

"I think what impressed me most about Pacific is that I came here for pre-pharmacy and was kind of one-track minded at first, but then I was really exposed to all these areas," he said. "It was really about the encouragement I got from my professors and my social group that helped me pursue this unique path."

When Carranza applied for the Fulbright scholarship, he combined the bachelor's degree in economics he earned with his practical background as a pharmacy student to propose he spend two years in Finland learning about Scandinavia's approach to health care. He presented an unusual package that was attractive to the panel awarding the scholarships.

"They thought my path was unique for a Fulbright applicant," he said.

As a pharmacy student who has spent hours helping patients who struggle to obtain health care and pay for medication, Carranza has developed insights into the shortcomings of America's health care system. He wants to help create public policies to make it easier for Americans to get the care they need. He specifically wanted to study Finland's system.

"I was looking at countries that have generous health care benefits with reduced costs of medication, reduced cost of health services and better access overall," he said.

Carranza plans to immerse himself into Finland's system to see first-hand what the patient experience is like as well as working with providers and government administrators. 

Carranza will leave in August to study at the University of Tampere in Finland. The Fulbright scholarship will cover the cost of tuition as well as travel and living expenses for a year with the option of renewing for a second year. When he's done, Carranza will have earned a master's degree in public and global health.

"I think the main benefit, truly, is to be part of a huge network of Fulbright alumni who are professors, researchers, scholars-all across the world," Carranza said.