Alumni Spotlight: Donna Keissami

When Donna Keissami, PharmD ’08, published “Maddie Visits the Pharmacist,” she fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing a children’s book. Here, she talks about how the book helps children understand prescribed medications.

Can you tell us about your career and how you decided to write a children’s book?

Currently, I work as a part-time pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Beverly Hills, Calif. It brings me a lot of joy to see the same patients every week who know me by name. A definite career highlight for me was when Pharmacy Times published a feature on my children’s book, “Maddie Visits the Pharmacist.” Another highlight is when I randomly get emailed that a child or fellow pharmacist loves my book or that the book helped someone’s child take their medicine. My dream come true would be that every pharmacist owns a copy of my book to share with the little loved one(s) in their life.

My love for reading began as a young girl. I also used to babysit quite a bit, and my main character, Maddie, is named after my favorite little girl to babysit. I just knew I would one day write my own children’s story. As I got older, I realized that I spent most of my time on education, and writing a children’s book enabled me to let my creative juices flow. When I started to formulate the story, I couldn’t find any children’s books about pharmacists. The choice to make a pharmacist the main character seemed obvious to me. I was also inspired by the thought of one day being able to read my book to my children. Indeed, one of my favorite aspects of my book is reading it to my son Dean.

How can this book help children understand prescribed medications?

I truly believe that this book should be in every household with children. Unfortunately, children inevitably get sick, and oftentimes medication is necessary for them to feel better. Children are generally not the easiest patients to accept medication. It’s helpful for them to read about another child being sick and ultimately feeling well so that they can be better prepared to cope with their illness. Whenever I have to give my son medication, I remind him about Maddie in the book. It has made what used to be a painful ordeal much easier. He now willingly opens his mouth and accepts his medicine!

What advice do you have for students who may be interested in following a similar path to yours?

My advice is to find great friends to study with and spend time with during the process. If you’re as lucky as me, you’ll make some of the best friends of your life during pharmacy school. Enjoy the journey and not just the final destination of becoming a pharmacist. Also, it never hurts to use your expertise and pharmacy knowledge to branch out a little within the field. “Maddie Visits the Pharmacist” was my “branch out” and has brought me tremendous satisfaction and joy!

In what ways do you anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic changing the healthcare landscape?

I think the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a higher respect for pharmacists and pharmacy within the healthcare field. While other businesses were closed, our pharmacies remained open and ready to serve and help our patients. Early on during the pandemic, I was especially proud to go to work. We are definitely “essential workers” and not only in terms of the pandemic.

What does the phrase “Trojan Family” mean to you?

To me, “Trojan Family” means pride and a sense of community. It’s always fun to see all the USC license plates on the road. People definitely “oooh and ahhh” when they find out I graduated from the USC School of Pharmacy. On top of this, in terms of finding a job, being a part of the USC alumni network has been invaluable!