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: Heather Sellman.
Why did you go into the field of pharmacy?
I have always loved going to school and learning. I wanted a career that allowed me to keep learning every day. While studying at UMBC, my dad had a medication error. It showed me that I wanted to be in a position where I could help or prevent something like that from happening to others. Going to pharmacy school combined all of the things I wanted in a career and was a great fit for me.
How did you become a poison specialist?
As a student in pharmacy school, I did a rotation at the MPC. While there, I got to learn about the variety of cases that poison centers treat. The interactions between the poison specialists and people on the other end of the phone were exactly what I was looking for in a career, having a chance to help people every day. Not to mention, there was always an opportunity to learn at the poison center, which I enjoyed. After working in retail pharmacy for a while, I saw a job opening for a poison specialist, and here I am.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The most enjoyable part of my work is having the ability to provide a sense of reassurance to callers that they or their loved one will be okay after an exposure. People have been very grateful. It’s very rewarding to me. The fact that we are always available to help with poisonings 24/7 is a great service for people.
Why are poison centers and poison specialists like you important?
As a service that operates 24/7, we’re often a person’s first point of contact after a poisoning exposure has happened. We can help in situations that can be scary for some people. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been able to prevent a lot of emergency department visits by monitoring callers at home and keeping them safe. It is also a great service to help other health care providers who call us for treatment assistance or with any poisoning-related questions they have.
What’s an important message you want to share about poison safety?
If you don’t recognize a medicine, don’t take it. The shape, size, and color of your medication may change. When in doubt, give us a call and we can confirm that you have the right medicine.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I like to spend my time reading, traveling, and trying different foods and restaurants. I am also a Disney fan! My ultimate goal is to travel around the world. I’m about 25% of the way there, and excited to travel more in the future.