This article is part of a series featuring some of this year’s outstanding graduating students, nominated by their academic school or college or another University program in which they participated. Check for additional profiles of students in the Class of 2013 on UConn Today from now through Commencement.
Darren Luon ’11 (PHR), ’13 Pharm.D. came to the University of Connecticut knowing that he wanted to be a student in the School of Pharmacy.
“My parents always said, ‘You need to be a doctor, or a dentist, or a pharmacist.’ At first I didn’t want anything to do with it,” he says. “But then I was with my grandmother a lot when I was a teenager, and she was very sick. She had a big stack of medications. In order to help my family out, I memorized when she was supposed to take them, and what they were for. I thought that maybe I could make a career out of it. It was interesting.”
Now, six years after beginning his tenure as a student at UConn, Pharm.D. candidate Darren Luon is ready to graduate.
“I can’t wait,” he says. “I’m so excited, it’s not funny. It feels like yesterday I was a freshman in Towers.”
Luon has come a long way from being a freshman in Towers, getting involved in a wide range of academic and community service activities.
In 2010, Luon joined the UConn chapter of Alpha Zeta Omega, the professional pharmaceutical fraternity, where he served as an officer and eventually became president.
He also launched an initiative to begin a branch of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists at UConn, after being introduced to the group by a preceptor.
“I was doing rotations at Natchaug Hospital, and the pharmacist there introduced me to the organization, which is for psychiatric medicine and mental illness,” says Luon. “We worked on a paper together, and it got published, which was really great. Then I realized, there are student chapters so why not at UConn? I tried to start it for two years, and the new president finished what I started. They had their first meeting recently.”
Luon is also a member of the American Pharmacist Association’s Academy of Student Pharmacists, the Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Society, and the Connecticut Society of Health- System Pharmacists. Many of these groups have strong community service roles.
He also volunteered at Khmer Health Advocates – Khmer is his second language; volunteered at the Lyman Orchards Migrant Farm Worker Clinic; and assisted with the construction of housing with Habitat for Humanity. He was a member of UConn’s Asianation program, which provides mentoring to incoming freshmen and helps ease the transition from high school.
Luon understands the importance of feeling comfortable at college: he received support from one of the learning communities UConn offers. “I lived on campus for the first four years, and I loved it. I loved Hilltop Apartments, and I loved Towers. I was in the Pre-pharmacy Learning Community, and it was a fantastic experience.”
Besides focusing on academics, volunteer work, and community outreach, he also enjoys nature. “I like hiking,” he says. “I love being outdoors. That was part of the reason I came here [to UConn], I don’t like the city very much.” His ambition is to visit every national park in the country.
Although he is sad to leave UConn, Luon is excited to continue his pharmacy education in a pharmacy residency. “I’ll be doing clinical work, working more closely with the doctors,” he says. “I haven’t decided yet, but I want to go to a bigger hospital with lots of different things I can do to get experience.”
Luon hopes to become a professor one day. “Later, I want to teach at a school of pharmacy,” he says. “I love it. I’m spending one rotation teaching patient assessment. That’s what I want to do in the future.”