Stanislava Manojlovic, previously a refugee, overcomes obstacles to earn PharmD

Stanislava Manojlovic poses for a photo with her nephew, Maksim Morris, May 24 after the 2019 Comm
Stanislava Manojlovic poses for a photo with her nephew, Maksim Morris, May 24 after the 2019 Commencement Ceremony.


Stanislava Manojlovic’s dream of becoming a pharmacist started when her mother was injured while tending to sheep. Her family didn’t have any other access to medical care, and her ankle, cut by a leash, was starting to get infected.

So Manojlovic’s neighbor, a pharmacist, cared for her mother until she was healed.

From that point on, Manojlovic dreamed of one day entering the field herself. She even used her grandparents’ old prescription bottles to play pretend pharmacist with her sister at home.

But for a long time, that dream of actually becoming a pharmacist seemed out of reach. Manojlovic was a refugee in Serbia for eight years before moving to the U.S. When her family finally moved, they lived as refugees for another six years. They only had $100 to their names and needed to learn the basics, from using a credit card to speaking English.

“I never believed I could do pharmacy in the U.S.,” Manojlovic said. “I never thought it was something that would be possible for me.”

That all changed during the spring 2019 commencement ceremony May 24 on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, where Manojlovic earned her PharmD. Manojlovic, the first person in her family to obtain higher education after she graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, surpassed her own expectations when she earned her degree from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“I can’t wrap my mind around it,” she said. “It’s surreal.”

Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Manojlovic moved to Croatia when she was 3 years old. But starting in March 1991, the Yugoslav Wars left her without a home to go back to.

When the war was over, her family moved to Serbia, where they lived for eight years as refugees. Her life left her with little opportunity to pursue higher education: It wasn’t possible for her family to move to Belgrade, the closest major city, to take classes.

“I always wanted to be a pharmacist,” she said. “But in Serbia, I couldn’t even think of that.”

Her parents tried three times to move to the U.S. before finally getting approval.

After they moved, Manojlovic, her sister and parents all began working toward U.S. citizenship. Manojlovic knew she wanted to pursue higher education. So she applied to CU Boulder, and in 2012, earned her biology degree.

Even after earning her degree, though, a career in pharmacy still seemed impossible.

“I was lost for a long time,” she said. “I didn’t believe it would happen.”

But with her dream in the back of her mind, Manojlovic started from scratch, taking classes to become a pharmacy technician. Seven years after earning her first degree, Manojlovic , who became a U.S. citizen along with her sister and parents, overcame her doubts. Now, she is sure about her career, especially because of her ability to empathize with patients.

“There is a lack of empathy and understanding in today’s medical world towards those who don’t speak English or are illiterate, and/or do not have strong financial background,” she said. “What I considered to be a disadvantage for most of my life (being a refugee, losing my home and my country, English as a second language) I consider advantages now because of my ability to form that bond and sincerely understand and emphasize with those in need.”

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