For seven years, Brittany and Whitney Gross have worked hard to earn degrees from the University of Mississippi's School of Pharmacy, beginning on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, and ending with training and classes at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Their May 9 graduation at Ole Miss doesn't just mark the next chapter in their lives. It means that the 25-year-old twins, for the first time in their lives, won't be living together and won't be seeing each other every single day.
Whitney will complete a one-year residency at Methodist Hospitals in Memphis, and Brittany will stay at UMMC for her residency.
"It's going to be different. We've never lived apart, and I've never lived alone," said Brittany, who's the younger twin by a couple of minutes. "But I've been a student for seven years, so getting to practice pharmacy and not be in school, and having a career … It's exciting."
For Whitney, living in the big city of Memphis will be a real transition from the twins' hometown of Carthage. "I think people are more worried about us being separated than anything else," she said.
The Gross sisters are among 63 students receiving Doctor of Pharmacy degrees this spring. Other 2015 School of Pharmacy graduates include 110 receiving a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, one receiving a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and 14 receiving a Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Dr. Laurie Fleming, clinical associate professor in the School of Pharmacy, has served as a mentor to the Gross sisters. "I have really enjoyed getting to know them over the past four years," Fleming said.
"They are both hard-working girls with a positive attitude. You'll never see them without a smile on their face," Fleming said. "They're extremely passionate about pharmacy in general, and they really enjoy serving others. They care about people."
That's evident in their current career leanings. Brittany is considering a hospital career, working with critical care and pediatric patients. Whitney also wants to work on a hospital floor with critical care patients, or in an emergency room setting.
Health-care careers run in their family. Their older sister is a pharmacist in Carthage, where their dad is a dentist. "Both of us wanted to go into a health-care field," Whitney said.
Fleming said both sisters' residencies will prepare them for clinical pharmacy positions.
"They definitely have a lot of choices," Fleming said. "This is such an exciting time in their life. They've got a lot of life changes in front of them."
"I'm relieved to be finished with school after seven years, but I'm excited about what's to come," Whitney said. "It's a whole new start, and it's a whole new career."