Serendipity and Service

Published on 07 June 2017

A three-part questionnaire about daily routines, smoking habits and favorite television shows is not a conventional way to make a best friend, but United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Lieutenant Commanders (LCDR) Christopher LaFleur ’10, Pharm.D., CPH, and Patrick Harper ’10, Pharm.D., MPH, CPH, have never felt the need to adhere to conventional paths. After they were assigned as roommates, LaFleur, originally from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, and Harper, a native of Nashville, Illinois, a town of about 3,000 people, met for the first time on Move-In Day.

Despite noticeably different backgrounds, the two got along right away.

“We complemented each other well,” Harper said. “Chris was more of the social butterfly, while I was the bookworm. We kept each other balanced and in check.”

“It was great having someone to lean on,” LaFleur said. “School is tough, especially at STLCOP. The curriculum is demanding, and it was important to have someone who was in the same classes, knew what you were going through, could study with you and answer questions. All of that, in addition to growing as a person and having a friend to go on new adventures with, was invaluable.”

The two would go on to be involved in extracurricular activities on campus. Both were active in student council, now the Student Government Association, and Lambda Chi Alpha, while also pursuing their individual interests. When it came time to start looking for internships and frame what life after graduation would be, LaFleur and Harper both knew they wanted to serve their country in some capacity.

After some research and a presentation from USPHS Commander Kara King ’04/’05, Pharm.D., on the USPHS, the Senior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Externship Program (SRCOSTEP) and her facility’s Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotation site in Alaska, LaFleur and Harper knew they found their calling. Both applied for the USPHS and SRCOSTEP program.

Harper was selected and commissioned as an Ensign in the USPHS in 2009 and stationed on the Navajo Reservation with the Indian Health Service at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico, where he would spend the next four years after graduation. LaFleur, also selected and commissioned as an Ensign in the USPHS in 2009, would spend his years after graduation stationed as a staff pharmacist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons medical center for female offenders in Fort Worth, Texas.

“We were going to different places, but we were doing it together,” Harper said.

Over the years, LaFleur and Harper would move around the country and make their way through a series of promotions and advanced degrees before finding themselves working alongside each other at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in downtown Chicago. Harper is the chief pharmacist at the MCC, while LaFleur has become an assistant health systems administrator.

“It’s awesome to work together again,” LaFleur said. “I stop by the pharmacy all the time. He stops by my office, and we just work through problems because we’re on the same page. We have the same experience, very similar backgrounds and a similar mentality and approach to getting work done. That has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working together at the MCC.”

This story was first published in the spring 2017 issue of Script. Visit stlcop.edu/script to read more and access previous issues.

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