As a nonprofit organization, we rely on the help of volunteers to continue providing the best services possible. Patsy and Erin Matsushita are both pharmacists who volunteer with Keiro from time to time. It is always very special when licensed professionals like Patsy and Erin volunteer, but it’s rare to see such a dynamic duo like this mother and daughter who volunteer together. The following is an email interview that Keiro conducted with the two pharmacists.

Patsy and Erin Matsushita
Photo provided by Erin Matsushita

Please introduce yourself (name, profession, how long you’ve been working, relationship)

Patsy: My name is Patsy Matsushita, PharmD. I have worked as a pharmacist with Kaiser Permanente for 39 years and I am Erin’s mother.

Erin: I’ve practiced pharmacy for 12 years and have worked as a pharmacist for 7 years. Patsy is my mom.

Why did you choose to pursue pharmacy?

P: After taking an anatomy and physiology class in high school, I knew I wanted to go into the healthcare field. I liked learning about how the different organ systems in our bodies work and the diseases that can affect them. I also liked helping people so I thought it was a good way to combine my interests and strengths.

Practicing as a pharmacist has given me the opportunity to interact with patients face-to-face in my pharmacy and over the phone multiple times during the day. I truly believe that each interaction is a great opportunity for me to help the patient. Pharmacists are very, very, very accessible to patients. You don’t need to schedule an appointment with a pharmacist to get help. You just call on the phone and say you want to talk to the pharmacist or just walk up to the counter in the pharmacy itself. How great is that?! It could be the person has questions about side effects, drug interactions, cost of medication, how the medication works, concern about the large number of medications they take, advice about scheduling the times to take the medications, possible foods to avoid, herbals that might affect their medications and medical condition, and more. I really like these opportunities to educate the patient. The more they know about their condition and treatment, the healthier they will be.

E: I enjoy the health care field and having the unique opportunity for promoting medication, education, and medication safety!

What is your connection to the Japanese American community, and what kind of volunteer work have you done in regards to the Japanese American Community?

P: I grew up in the Crenshaw district in Los Angeles and participated in Japanese American softball leagues, Japanese school and attended Senshin Buddhist Temple which encouraged learning about our heritage and culture. After graduating high school, I volunteered every summer at the LABCC Summer Youth Camp program as a camp counselor. I attended this camp as camper myself and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to return there as staff to give back to the program that gave me so much enjoyment as a youngster.

As a parent, I had all of my three children participate in the various Japanese American groups/activities in the Torrance and Gardena community. These included Sansei Baseball League, the FOR basketball and golf association, Yonsei Basketball and Boy Scout Troop 719. In each of these groups, my husband and I both felt it was important we also step up and volunteer to help in any way we could.

We also try to support the fundraisers of JAMN, JACCC, LTSC, AADAP and Kizuna.

Through the Keiro Genki conferences, I was very happy to be given the chance to provide free medication consultations over the past several years.

I now am able to volunteer again for the LABCC Summer Camp program. But this time instead of being a counselor, I am a part of the medical staff there.

E: Growing up, I was introduced to the JA community playing in the FOR Basketball league. Today, I am still friends with many of the people I met through basketball and hope to continue to be involved with similar sports organizations in the future. I also enjoy serving as a mentor through the USC Asian Pacific American Student Services mentorship program for undergraduates interested in learning about the field of pharmacy. Additionally, my husband and I understand how important it is to support community organizations such as Kizuna and Keiro.

I’ve volunteered on the medical staff with LABCC (Los Angeles Buddhist Coordinating Council) Summer Camp which has a large number of Japanese American campers.

In your opinion, why is it important for professionals like pharmacists to volunteer their time and skills?

P: I think as a person, in general, we have an obligation to help others whenever we can. And as a pharmacist, we have skills and knowledge that can help improve access to health care, promote good health and even help prevent disease. Also these opportunities can also help us improve our own practice and patient care knowledge.

E: I started volunteering with Keiro as a volunteer at the nursing home and gardened and played wheelchair volleyball and poker with the residents. Many of the residents had wonderful stories to share about their Japanese American heritage and experiences. There are numerous ways to get involved as a volunteer, whether it be by sharing your professional expertise or volunteering your time to have fun and connecting with the residents. Volunteering is simple – anyone can do it. It’s important to provide guidance for patients and their families, especially those that might otherwise have difficulties accessing the resources they need.

What is your favorite part about volunteering together and why?

P: Volunteering is actually a fun activity to do together. It makes it twice as fun for me. It makes me feel good to know that we are both doing something that could make a difference in someone’s life – even a small difference. For me, it is also gratifying to know that a quality that I truly value, the act of helping without expecting a reward, is also important to my own daughter.

E: It’s fun! Beyond that, my mom and I have a very special relationship. When we volunteer together, we have a great way of generating ideas and coming up with solutions. I appreciate that we have such a positive working relationship. In general, I volunteer because I truly enjoy helping people. The reward of volunteering and knowing you helped another individual is priceless.

What tips do you have for people as we try to avoid flu season?

P: Getting the flu vaccine will protect you and also those around you, Family, friends and co-workers. It is the most effective way of preventing influenza and its complications.

E: Get your flu shot! It protects yourself as well as your loved ones. Wash your hands frequently.


INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING?

We are always looking for professional volunteers like lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, and certified financial planners to give advice to older adults, their families, and their caregivers. Even if you don’t hold one of these occupations, we encourage volunteers of all ages to support older adults to improve their quality of life wherever they call home.

Find out how you can volunteer today!