Our Own Olympian: Megan Fonteno

Megan Fonteno, 2012 Olympian

August 9, 2016

By Sarah Russell

AUBURN, Alabama – A new crop of Harrison School of Pharmacy students entered the Walker Building this week, beginning the orientation course known as Foundations of Pharmacy. Each night, when they get home from another long day, they may turn on the TV and watch some of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. For them, it is exciting to see the accomplishments of athletes from around the world in the once-every-four-years event, but for one first-year student, it carries a whole other significance.

Megan Fonteno, a six-time All-American swimmer during her undergraduate years at Auburn, has lived it. Four years ago, while most of her classmates were getting ready to start another year of school, Fonteno was in London, competing on the biggest stage in her sport, representing American Samoa in the 2012 Olympics.

“The experience was definitely one I will never forget,” Fonteno said.  “My teammates and I arrived a couple days before the opening ceremony so we could adjust to the time difference, unpack and settle in, explore the city and most importantly, adapt to the competition facilities. For me, it was the competition pool. Walking into the pool area was mesmerizing. I remember noticing how much bigger and brighter this pool was than any other competition I had been to.”

To Fonteno, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, her experience still seems almost too surreal to describe, from gazing up at an arena full of flashing photographers and cheering spectators, to eating McDonald’s with LeBron James and the rest of the United States Men’s Basketball team, to competing in the world’s largest athletic competition.

“No matter what place you finished, what country you represented or how many medals you achieved, everyone was equal,” Fonteno said. “We all had one thing in common: we would forever be 2012 London Olympians.”

Fonteno explained that pursuing a career in pharmacy has always been a dream for her, but in her junior year at Auburn an experience at a pharmacy solidified her aspiration. While picking up a prescription with her mother, Fonteno noticed an older man skip to the front of the long line to the counter. He showed the pharmacist a piece of paper and left.

“The pharmacist explained he was diagnosed with cancer about two years before, and she gave him some medication to help him stay alive a little longer,” Fonteno said. “He came to show her a picture of his granddaughter, who was born about two weeks prior. He came to say thank you and wanted her to know how much it meant to him to have such a special person look after his well-being.”

Seeing the impact of this community pharmacist inspired Fonteno to continue working toward pharmacy school.

“At that moment, I knew I wanted to have an impact on someone’s life in a way that would change his or her perspective on life, and mine,” Fonteno said.

Fonteno is in her first week of school at the Harrison School of Pharmacy this week and plans to join the military as a pharmacist after graduating. The daughter of two retired Marines, she also has a brother, Michael, who is currently at the Air Force Academy where she spent the last year as an assistant swimming coach at the Air Force Academy.

“I have always wanted to help people and I think that going into the military is the best way I can help people and serve my country,” said Fonteno. “I have wanted to go into the military since I was 7 or 8 years old, but once I figured out that I was good at science and math, I was like ‘oh, I could be a pharmacist for them,’ and that opened my eyes to the opportunity.”

With her athletic career now behind her, Fonteno is ready for the next step on her journey, one that begins this week as she begins her time at the Harrison School of Pharmacy.

“I’m looking forward to starting over on a new chapter of my life. Swimming has been a part of my life for so long, and I’m very thankful for everything it has taught me,” Fonteno said. “I think it prepared me very well for the future, but I am ready to start school, a job, and my life using the skills without jumping in a pool every day. I’m looking forward to joining the military and serving my country in a way that has a positive effect on people’s lives.”


Megan Fonteno with Team USA Basketball
Megan Fonteno with members of the United States basketball team: James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul.
Fonteno at the Opening Ceremony
Megan Fonteno at the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Megan Fonteno swimming at Auburn
Megan Fonteno swam at Auburn from 2011-15, earning six All-American honors.

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About the Harrison School of Pharmacy
Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: August 9, 2016