Pharmacy grad’s lesson: It’s never too late

Jared Matya, PharmD, UNMC College of Pharmacy Class of 2016

Jared Matya, PharmD, UNMC College of Pharmacy Class of 2016

The turning point in the road to Jared Matya, PharmD, becoming a UNMC-educated pharmacist came during a talk with a trusted mentor.

After an “adventurous” post-high school career, Dr. Matya knew he wanted to become a pharmacist.

But at that point, Dr. Matya was closer to age 30 than 20. He would need to go back for two more years of undergrad before even thinking of enrolling in pharmacy school. That PharmD degree was at least six years away.

He’d be 32 years old.

His mentor was wise: “You’re going to be 32 in six years anyway,” she said. “You might as well be a pharmacist.”

Jared Matya, PharmD, hematology/oncology clinical pharmacist at Nebraska Medicine

Today, Dr. Matya, College of Pharmacy Class of 2016, is a hematology/oncology clinical pharmacist at Nebraska Medicine, specializing in blood and marrow transplants.

He helps treat some of the most aggressive cancers out there, he said. And as a residency program director and adjunct faculty for his alma mater, UNMC, “I get to teach the next generation of pharmacists to do it as well.”

He’s also a living embodiment that, “It’s OK to not know what you want to do right now,” he told this year’s incoming pharmacy class at its White Coat Ceremony.

Most of all, he shows, it’s never too late to find out.

Dr. Matya got good grades coming out of high school and got a scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha. But he changed majors every semester, he said, until he finally stopped going altogether, losing a full-ride scholarship.

Then, he got a job in a restaurant, even taking on supervisory responsibilities. But one time he was told to crack down on a co-worker who was always on the phone.

Dr. Matya balked. “Hot-headed 20-year-old me,” he said, told the boss to stuff it and walked out.

It hit him: “I just quit my job,” Dr. Matya recalled. “I had bills.”

He then tried to become a professional poker player. He studied and practiced, playing day and night. For a while, he paid his bills by living Kenny Rogers’ lyrics.

But mom disapproved. He ended up selling vacuums door-to-door.

“It taught me a lot about being rejected,” Dr. Matya said.

He later sold cars. Then he got a job collecting delinquent debt. It kept him humble. It taught him compassion.

And that’s where he met the mentor who said things like, “You choose your attitude,” and, yes, that he should become a pharmacist even if it took until age 32.

He went back to college, now relishing all the undergraduate classes he had to take over again.

“Jared is a memorable student to me even 10 years later,” said Jodi Kreiling, PhD, his biochemistry professor at UNO. “He often came to office hours to ask ‘more’ questions. He wanted to understand it all. Not just enough to get an A on exams, but enough to understand everything. He was a lot of fun to talk to in those meetings.”

Two years later, he applied to the UNMC College of Pharmacy.

And he got put on the wait list.

It was devastating, after all that work.

Dr. Matya met with the legendary Charlie Krobot, PharmD.

He was married, he told Dr. Krobot, and a new father. He wasn’t quitting, not this time.

So Dr. Krobot gave him a checklist to get off the wait list. It was a series of steps he had to take to show his dedication. He would have to deliver a report on what he learned.

Dr. Matya did it.

He got in.

His classmates called him “grandpa” and suggested he run for office. He became class president. 

“Jared demonstrated a professionalism that is rarely seen,” said Chris Shaffer, PharmD, associate dean for student affairs and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

He became just the seventh graduate in UNMC’s PharmD program with a perfect GPA.

He was on his way at last.

Now, he’s a pharmacist. He treats cancer. He teaches.

Now, he’s a role model, giving speeches at the White Coat Ceremony on his favorite subject.

“Me,” Dr. Matya said.

But it’s a good subject to talk about, for pharmacy students or anyone. Jared Matya, PharmD, is a living life lesson:

It’s never too late.


  1. Marlene Novotny says:

    What a wonderful, inspiring journey! Thanks for sharing and congratulations!

  2. Debbie Vierregger says:

    Congratulations Jared!!! Well deserved!!

  3. Lisa Keedy says:

    You have been such an asset to the BMT team!

  4. MS says:

    Jared is such an integral part of the Hematologic Malignancies team. Such an awesome journey from knuckle-head to Pharmacist of excellence.

  5. Tom O’Connor says:

    Great story, Kalani. Congrats to Jared for sticking with it and getting his degree. It’s inspiring.

  6. Matt Boone says:

    I know this man for many years and you will never find somebody of finer character

  7. Gary Yee says:

    Jared’s journey is an inspiring example of resilience and grit.

  8. Zac Gemar says:

    Excellent story on a great person. It’s been fun watching you through the journey. I know how hard you worked. Congrats on the recognition. Well deserved!

  9. Deann K Chmelka says:

    I always knew this wonderful young man was destined for great things! I am so proud of you Jared. I am blessed to call you my friend!

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