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 Mialki.
Why did you go into the field of pharmacy?
In the seventh grade, my school hosted a career day. Each student was asked to have a guest come and share about their career. I asked my neighbor who had just graduated from pharmacy school. She described what her schooling was like and the types of environments in which pharmacists can work in health care. In high school, I enjoyed and math, chemistry, and biology, and later started working at a local pharmacy. The pharmacist encouraged me to pursue pharmacy as a career, and later that year, I applied for pharmacy school.
How did you end up becoming a poison specialist?
After pharmacy school, I began working in a pharmacy retail setting. I was a pharmacy manager and enjoyed my job, coworkers, and patients. However, I wanted to find a career where I could use more of my clinical knowledge. When a position at the MPC opened up, I thought it would be a good fit for me, because I would be learning a lot, and still interacting with patients and other health care professionals in a new environment.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
As one of the newest specialists at the poison center, I enjoy continuing to learn every day. There are so many different toxicology topics, the learning will never end. I love that we get the opportunity to pass on this information to the general public and also to health care professionals.
Why are poison centers and poison specialists like you important?
Poison center specialists have a unique set of knowledge. We are able to help patients who call from home, letting them know if they can stay home or if they need to be seen in the emergency department or by their doctor. We are also very involved in managing patients who are hospitalized. We work closely with doctors and nurses to make sure each patient gets the best care possible.
What’s an important message you want to share about poison safety?
Poison safety affects everyone and comes in many different forms. Never be afraid to call the MPC and talk about the situation you or someone you know has been involved in. As poison specialists, we are trained to deal with many different topics that many people don’t know we can help with, such as what to do if you have taken a double dose of medication, taken someone else’s medication, workplace exposures, been bitten by a snake, and more. Never hesitate to call, and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to give us the information we need to help you.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love to travel. I have been on many medical mission trips to Ghana and Uganda. I also try to make it to the beach at least once a year.