Questa del Rio News is starting a monthly column dedicated to Questeños, both those who live in the community and those who have left and are representing Questa. Our community has raised outstanding members of society and this column will be dedicated to the padres (parents), the abuelos y abuelas (grandpas and grandmas), tias y tios (aunts and uncle), primas y primos (cousins male and female) who have contributed to their upbringing. In our June issue, we are recognizing several of the recent college graduates from our area. We had the opportunity to talk to several of them about their drive, determination, hopes, dreams, and the impact Questa made on their journey.
For our first interview, we spoke with Charlotte Flory, who graduated from Questa High School in 2015. After graduation, she moved to Albuquerque to attend the University of New Mexico (UNM) with a distinct vision of pursuing a degree in medicine, specifically pharmacology. Flory’s sights of pursuing this ambitious field came out of a lesson in her high school class where her teacher, Diane Leon did a career development exercise with the students, asking them research jobs which aligned with their passions, then build a plan to make it attainable. “I remember telling her, ‘Mrs. Leon, I don’t want to do any of my passions for a job’ and she told me, ‘Okay. Think of the type of life you want to live, then choose a job to support that lifestyle,’ and that’s when I said, I want to be a pharmacist.”
Determined to make her goal a reality, Flory went to school full time and obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology and a second bachelor’s degree in psychology, all in four short years. She then went on to obtain a third bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical studies the following year in 2020. “I think the hardest part about going to school was going through the pandemic, where teachers had to change the way they taught, and we all had to change the way we were learning,” Flory says. Three years later, Flory is the proud graduate of a dual degree in PharmD and a Master in Business Administration (MBA). She laughs when she says her grandpa gets a kick out of his granddaughter obtaining her MBA. “He says he didn’t know the NBA had a college and jokes that I graduated from the NBA,” Flory says though giggles.
While she primarily decided to pursue pharmacology because of the earning potential, Flory says she found her passion during her years learning about and working in the trade through internships at the Taos Walgreens, Victor’s Pharmacy in the South Valley, and in various community pharmacies in the duration of her program. “We have a big responsibility as pharmacists to look out for the patient. I learned that there are a lot of knowledge gaps which we have the opportunity to fill. Sometimes, doctors may not be aware of the cascading complications between two medications, or side effects a new medication may have when taken with current medications, we can intervene and help and that’s really fulfilling to me.”
In order to start practicing as a licensed pharmacist, she will need to pass the boards, which she anticipates taking in August this year. I am going to be studying a lot over the next few months, using online study guides and a Mapquest book review. In addition, she will need to pass a legal examination, all of which she feels confident about. “I remember telling my mom, pharmacy school is not hard. It is similar to my undergrad, it takes a lot of work, and a lot of effort, but it’s not hard.”
As for what’s next, Flory anticipates working in Albuquerque for the next 3-5 years, then she plans to head home. “I am not a city girl, I always want to run home to my mountains in Questa.” Flory says her dream is to open a pharmacy in Questa in the near future. “Questa is my home, and I am so proud to be a Questeña. I remember people telling me I was a Burqueña when I moved to Albuquerque, and I quickly corrected them, because I will ALWAYS be a Questeña,” she says proudly.
Flory says one of the most comforting things about home is how it feels like she has a big extended family, rooting and cheering for her. “Whenever my mom sees any of my teachers or just people we knew, they always tell her how proud they are of me, and to keep going! It means so much to know my community is behind me,” Flory says.
At the end of our interview, Flory adds a very big thank you to her teachers in Questa. “I know the teachers are in a small community, and don’t have the same resources and money big schools do, but what the teachers lack in resources, they make up in passion and in encouragement for their students. Students from Questa are going far because our teachers believe we can, and they support us, even after they’ve taught us. I love seeing my former teachers comment on my social media posts and they’re always giving words of encouragement. It matters, and students wouldn’t have the confidence to go this far without the love and support of those teachers,” she says.