UBTech provides new career path for Vernal man

By Lezlee E. Whiting

Ryan Birch had worked in the Uintah Basin oil fields for almost 20 years when he was laid off during an industry slowdown in 2015 and “decided to make a change.”

He returned to college to make a complete career change, enrolling in the Pharmacy Technician program at Uintah Basin Technical College. The Pharmacy Technician program prepares students to work directly under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist to perform various duties. Birch discovered he really liked the work.

Last month the 45-year-old Vernal man celebrated a milestone by graduating from Creighton University with his Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

For Birch UBTech is really where it all started. As a student, he wasn’t a new face at UBTech. He had previously worked at the tech college as a substitute instructor. His wife Becky, now a nurse practitioner, had graduated from UBTech’s Practical Nursing program.

“I feel like UBTech is a great place for an alternative education pathway to find out what you want in life,” said Birch. “UBTech offers so many different ways for an individual to pursue pathways into the job force. Not just jobs in the Uintah Basin, but in the state and outside the state of Utah.

“I am super grateful for the opportunity they gave me with the (scholarship) funds to jump start a new career path,” he said. “I enjoyed the program. I enjoyed the instructor. I enjoyed the administration.”

As a non-traditional student, in Birch’s own words “25 years removed from high school” – he knew time mattered. “It was definitely a mixed bag. I had to make it work. I am not young. I don’t have time to make the mistakes I did that the first time around.”

After completing the Pharmacy Technician program in 2017, earning his certificate at the same time as his son, he decided to become a pharmacist. By early 2018 he had completed his pre-requisites for pharmacy school through Utah State University.

“I worked with local pharmacies in the area and started to research what my options were, where I could go with it,” he said. “There happened to be several distance pathways programs which allowed me to stay home without relocating. I was able to get into Creighton University. It worked out really well.”

In the summers the family would pack up to spend time on the Creighton campus in Omaha, Nebraska so Birch could fulfill his hands-on lab work assignments.

“The first summer especially it was pretty intense,” he said, but being a UBTech Pharmacy Technician graduate gave him an advantage over students who did not have previous hands-on experience.

“I was ahead of the game with a lot of things they had us doing,” he said. “You can only learn so much from a book.”

The same went for his UBTech hands-on training when it came to helping him with exams and licensure. His UBTech Pharmacy Technician training helped him tremendously, he said.

Throughout the time he was getting his education, Birch worked at Davis Food and Drug Pharmacy and Ashley Regional Medical Center Pharmacy.

“I got mentored by everybody in the community,” said Birch. “It has been a wonderful experience. I just have to turn it all the way back to where UBTech gave me the seed and allowed me to start.”

Right now, Birch is preparing for his state and national boards and working as a pharmacist at Davis Pharmacy in Vernal.

“I have come full circle and I want to thank my wife for being my biggest supporter,” said Birch.

UBTech Pharmacy Technician graduate, Ryan Birch, fulfilled his career goal of becoming a pharmacist. He recently graduated from Creighton University with his Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is currently working at the Davis Pharmacy located in Vernal.

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