One of the goals of our eAntidote blog is to introduce you to the real poison experts who answer the phones at the Maryland Poison Center (MPC), as well as our staff members. In addition to being nurses and pharmacists, they are parents, grandparents, artists, athletes, sports fans, and more! Read the Q&A below to get to know one specialist: Becka Mestas.
Why did you go into the field of pharmacy?
As a student, I loved math, biology, and chemistry. When looking at my career options, it became apparent to me that pharmacy was a nice combination of all of those subjects. It also allows me to work in the health care field and interact with patients.
How did you end up a poison specialist?
A friend of mine started working at the Maryland Poison Center a few years before I joined the team, and she loved it. Since she and I have similar backgrounds, I thought it would be good for me to give it a shot, as well.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love being able to calm parents’ fears when they call us after their child has gotten into something they were not supposed to. I also like providing poison management information to health care providers who may not see these kinds of cases frequently. Being a poison specialist, I get to share my unique knowledge about poisons with others every day.
Why are poison centers and poison specialists like you important?
Poison specialists are able to provide immediate information to callers, so they do not have to wait for a doctor to call them back or to be seen in a busy emergency department. Who wants to wait and worry when you could get instant peace of mind by calling our experts? It’s also important to call us before rushing to the emergency department, because we are able to manage many poison exposures at home. We also provide management information to health care providers who may not see these kinds of patients on a regular basis. Some health care providers are less familiar with cases involving medicines like lithium or calcium channel blockers. We help them and save health insurance companies, hospitals, and the state money by keeping certain patients out of hospital beds and ambulances when they don’t need to be there. Our help also shortens the amount of time patients spend in the hospital.
What’s an important message you want to share about poison safety?
There are so many important messages about poisons out there, but two that I feel strongly about are: (1) just because a substance is labeled as natural or organic does not mean it is safe — anything can be a poison if taken in the wrong way, wrong amount, or by the wrong person; and (2) it’s important for parents to talk with their kids about drug abuse and about using medicines responsibly.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my kids and husband. We will often spend time outdoors and taking walks. I also enjoy beading and doing other crafts.