ATLANTA – When first-year pharmacy student Stephanie Perrino took a year off from Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy last year, it wasn't to work part-time or back pack through Europe. Instead, Perrino traveled to Kuwait with the 1-171 Aviation Regiment of Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta as a chemical operations specialist.
Perrino, who had completed her first semester toward a doctor of pharmacy degree, was activated for duty on Dec. 18, 2003. After completing six weeks of training at Ft. Knox, Ky., she and her regiment left for Kuwait on Valentine's Day 2004.
Stephanie Perrino, a first-year Pharm.D. student, recently returned from Kuwait to resume studies at Southern School of Pharmacy.
"I was trained as a nuclear biological chemical specialist, which meant I made sure our company was prepared for any possible attacks," she said. "I was also trained in aviation supply and ordered parts for the Blackhawk helicopters."
During her time in Kuwait, Perrino participated in and won the Top Gun competition, which assured her a slot as a door gunner on the Blackhawk helicopter. As a door gunner, she flew missions in Kuwait and into the southern part of Iraq.
"We avoided the dangerous parts of Iraq, and Kuwait was a much safer place to be. I was fortunate," she recalled. "I definitely learned not to take the little things for granted."
Although she described the living conditions as "not horrible," she said the sandstorms and 140 degree weather did make matters "difficult."
Perrino was able to gain early leave because she was planning to return to Mercer's Southern School of Pharmacy to resume her studies. Had she waited until Jan. 28 – the return date of her unit – she would have had to wait another year before being able to enroll for coursework.
"We are pleased that Stephanie returned to continue her pharmacy education, but even more pleased that she returned home safely," said James W. Bartling, associate dean for student affairs and admissions. "I know she will make a wonderful pharmacist one day soon."
Perrino, the daughter of Leighann Perrino of Orlando, Fla., and Peter Perrino of Clayton, N.C., plans on going into the Air Force as a pharmacist after her graduation from the Southern School of Pharmacy.
About Mercer University and the Southern School of Pharmacy:
Mercer University's Southern School of Pharmacy has a century-long tradition of excellence and a national reputation for producing outstanding leaders in the profession of pharmacy. In September 1981, Southern School of Pharmacy became the first pharmacy school in the Southeast and fifth in the nation to offer the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) as its sole professional degree. The School also offers the Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences. Pharmacists from Mercer are currently practicing in 43 states and in several foreign countries.
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as three regional academic centers. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 15 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.