By John Michael Segars and Jane Rooney
The numbers don’t paint a rosy picture: In the 2011–12 admissions cycle, the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) experienced a 0.3 percent decrease in applicants and a 5.0 percent decrease in applications submitted. That decrease was mainly due to applicants applying to fewer schools.
But there is no cause for alarm—AACP and its members have a prescription to revive interest in pharmacy careers. A national strategic plan was implemented by the Association in 2012 to recruit students and demonstrate the advantages of devoting their lives to the rewarding healthcare challenges that pharmacy work entails. Individual and institutional members are also taking innovative steps to capture students’ attention and boost enrollment in pharmacy programs.
Last summer, the AACP Board of Directors agreed to complete a formal review of national admissions recruitment strategies by 2013. The Association was also tasked with finding ways to better promote and market available graduate pharmacy programs. AACP has incorporated information about the graduate programs into the PharmCAS Web site and in the 2014–15 application cycle, any graduate programs that want to integrate into PharmCAS to collect applications will be able to do so. Other initiatives include centralizing the electronic application process and making it more user-friendly.
Additional recruitment activities are under way. The Pharmacy Career Information Council is a collaboration of pharmacy organizations whose mission is to assist prospective and current student pharmacists in accessing information about pharmacy career pathways. AACP serves as the coordinator and primary customer support center for PCIC.
The Foundations of the Future Pharmacist Initiative involves three smaller programs. The first, Pharmacy Is Right for Me, is an educational campaign that aims to inspire and foster the next generation of pharmacy leaders in the United States. Students, parents and educators can access interactive online tools, resources and testimonials that highlight exciting and diverse career opportunities. AACP, the American Pharmacists Association and Optum Rx, a pharmacy benefits management organization, collaborated on this project.
Taking part in the Pharmacy Is Right for Me campaign is the College of Pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences. The college contributed four “Inspiring Journeys” videos to the campaign’s Web site and provided on-campus programs to get middle- and high-school students interested in pharmacy and healthcare. In one workshop, Pomona Unified School District students learned how to make toothpaste in the college’s lab during Palomares Academy of Health Sciences’ Project Lead the Way Biomedical Program in 2011.
The second part of the initiative is the Tour for Diversity in Medicine. Its mission is to cultivate future physicians of different racial and ethnic backgrounds by hosting workshops on students’ home campuses. The tour only includes medicine and dentistry thus far, but AACP is working to add pharmacy.
Lastly, AACP will work with Kaplan and the Pharmacy College Admission Test to implement a robust PCAT prep program. Another strategic plan objective focuses on offering financial discounts for disadvantaged students in the PCAT prep program and in PharmCAS to increase the diversity of the qualified applicant pool.
“Someday I’d like to help people like my pharmacist helped me. Maybe that is what I will grow up to be!” This quote is from a new children’s book, Pharmacy and Me, an emerging resource being used to educate kindergarten through third-grade students about the pharmacy profession. Nine students at Butler University used an interprofessional approach to create this book as part of the Pharmacy Is Right for Me campaign.
The book tells the story of a young girl who visits a retail pharmacy for the first time with her dad. The pharmacist delivers sore-throat relieving medication to eliminate her cold symptoms. Throughout the book children learn about the vital role a pharmacist plays in the community and in helping others. Young readers of this charming story can be inspired to follow in the pharmacist’s footsteps.
Butler students from the elementary education, communications and pharmacy departments created the book as part of a senior project. Dr. Erin L. Albert, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, is the pharmacy advisor for the project. “My responsibility was to gather resources necessary to publish the project, deal with the publishing agreements and contracts, and help build the overall timeline and deliverables.” Her role stemmed from the desire to educate a colleague’s young daughter about what her mother did every day at work as a pharmacist. Albert noted that the students had to learn how to work with professionals in different fields and how to clearly convey information about a pharmacist’s role to the non-pharmacy students.
A similar book published in 2004 titled Saving Emma builds awareness of elementary school-aged children about the history of apothecary pharmacy. Written by Bebe Willoughby, director of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, the book takes place in the museum’s current home, Alexandria, Virginia, in 1798. It tells the story of Nathan, a young man who travels great distances to find a cure for his baby sister’s illness. After inquiring with the local doctor and midwife, he eventually arrives at the apothecary, which sells him herbs and powders that will improve his sister’s health. Nathan returns with the medicine and his sister’s fever breaks. The experience makes him grateful to the pharmacist and sparks an interest in becoming the apothecary’s apprentice.
The pages of this heartwarming story teach children that medicines may have changed since 1798, but healthcare providers working together to improve patients’ health outcomes is still a core element of pharmacy practice. AACP Executive Vice President and CEO Lucinda L. Maine, Ph.D., R.Ph., writes in a section that she contributed to the book, “In some ways pharmacy practice is becoming more like it was in the past. Pharmacists in communities all across America are available to listen to people with concerns about their health and help them find medicines that can make them feel better.”
Targeting a slightly older age group, Mercer University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences offered a three-day pharmacy summer program last July designed to foster diversity in the pharmacy field. Now in its second year thanks to a $10,000 gift from Walgreens, the Mercer Pharmacy Scholars Summer Program welcomes to campus rising high-school sophomores, juniors and seniors who’ve expressed interest in pursuing a pharmacy career. Most of the 50 participating high-school students came from Atlanta area high schools.
The program included activities in a lab and workshops in pharmacy ethics, drug identification and patient care. One activity involved a mock crime scene that helped students understand how to use information about drug interactions, overdoses and unidentified medication in determining what happened to a patient. Field trips to local pharmacies—in both community and hospital settings—were also part of the program. A panel of pharmacists from various backgrounds (e.g., public health service, pharmacy benefits management company, independent pharmacy) discussed pharmacy careers with the students.
“This summer program is critically important to increasing awareness among young people about the unique training, expertise and value of pharmacists and pharmaceutical sciences within the healthcare delivery system,” said Dr. Hewitt W. “Ted” Matthews, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and senior vice president of Mercer’s new Health Sciences Center.
“My experience at Mercer University as a pharmacy scholar was such a life-changing experience,” said Joseph Bryant, who took part in last summer’s program. “It allowed me to understand what it takes to become a pharmacist and the different routes that people may choose to get there.” His mother, Annette Bryant, noted that “students actually get to do hands-on exercises on how medicine is made. The program made such an impression on my son that he chose pharmacy as his topic for his senior project.” Now those are words well worth spreading as recruitment initiatives press forward.
John Michael Segars is a 2013 Pharm.D. candidate at The University of Mississippi who completed his APPE at AACP; Jane Rooney is a freelance writer based in Oakton, Virginia.
Three first-year students at The University of Georgia College of Pharmacy realized they had something in common that set them apart from the other 141 members of the class of 2016. Leigh Ann Perri, Andrew May and Harrison Jozefczyk are all children of College of Pharmacy faculty. Dr. Matthew Perri is a professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy and Dr. J. Russell May is a clinical professor in the department’s clinical program in Augusta. Dr. Kenneth Jozefczyk, an adjunct member of the department, is the director of pharmacy at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah.
Very few students in the college’s 109-year history have followed in their parents’ footsteps. Leigh Ann and Andrew earned their bachelor’s degrees in 2006. Leigh Ann studied early childhood education at UGA and worked for several years as an elementary school teacher; Andrew earned his degree in business administration at Appalachian State University. Neither one felt fulfilled in their path, so they chose to dedicate the next four years of their lives to studying pharmacy.
The U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs of 2013 underscores what we already know: Pharmacy is a fantastic profession. Pharmacists took third place in the report, coming in just behind dentists at number one and nurses at number two. The list analyzed employment growth, median salary, future job prospects, the unemployment rate, and the occupation’s estimated stress level and work-life balance.
The report credits strong job growth for pharmacists: “With excellent prospects and a solid average salary, the pharmacist profession nabs the No. 3 spot on our list. Possessors of a Pharm.D. can anticipate nearly 70,000 available jobs this decade, the brunt in physician offices, outpatient care centers, and nursing homes.”
U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs of 2013: