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AACP APPE Student Blog: A Great New Way to Stay Connected to Academic Pharmacy

Have you ever been curious as to what a day in the life of an AACP APPE student is like? So have we!

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy is proud to announce that they are now accepting applications for APPE students who wish to complete a rotation and find out more about association work. Dr. Jennifer Adams, Senior Director of Strategic Academic Partnerships at AACP, is the primary preceptor for student pharmacists for the duration of their APPE rotation. Please email with any questions you may have about the AACP APPE or related topics.

*For rotations occurring in the fall 2016 and spring 2017 time frame, AACP will accept applications until Dec. 1, 2015. All applicants will be notified by Jan. 30, 2016 of their acceptance status.

This blog will serve as an innovative forum for students to post their weekly reflections about their experiences at AACP and provide unique insight into the great work that the association does for academic pharmacy. Feel free to post your comments/feedback/suggestions and we look forward to sharing our journey with you!

Guest Post #2: A Learning Experience by Andrea Nakamura
Guest Post #2: A Learning Experience by Andrea Nakamura
May 14, 2015

Throughout my time with Professions Quest (PQ), I have had the amazing experience of attending conferences to promote PQ’s interprofessional education game, Mimycx. For each of these conferences I helped John Damici, the PQ team manager, set up the presentation booths. The first conference was right in D.C. Together, we navigated the streets using our smart phones, eventually found parking, and hauled the heavy presentation materials down the street to the convention space. We assembled the banners, set up the TV, and arranged brochures and business cards on the table. There were a number of other presenters who were also setting up their displays. In the center of the room, an assortment of rather delicious snacks and drinks were available. After we finished setting up the PQ booth, I decided to walk around and view the other displays. I was impressed with the creativity and innovation that was represented. My favorites included a robotic surgery simulator that utilized augmented reality, a card game about infectious diseases and antibiotic therapies, and an iPad app that teaches proper brushing technique to children. After a few minutes, I returned to the PQ booth.
At first, I simply observed John as he presented to the attendees. As more curious people approached the booth, I began speaking and answering their questions. It felt like an ultimate test of what I had learned on my rotation. At times I was overwhelmed with the volume of university leaders who were coming to me, and words escaped me. In the end, I was able to figure out which points and keywords to emphasize and concisely convey why Mimycx is a useful educational tool.
This experience reminded me of the time and energy I had put into preparing and giving presentations throughout pharmacy school. At times, working through these projects was very stressful, but I now appreciate the experience this gave me. I’m not sure how I would have presented Mimycx at the conferences had I not had the practice in school. Pharmacy school isn’t merely about having all the drug facts memorized and working through patient cases, although those things are important. As pharmacists, there will be times where we need to utilize interpersonal skills to communicate our knowledge to our peers and team members. That’s how medicine progresses as a whole.
From this experience, I have appreciated that the things I go through in school for the most part are indeed important even if they seem painful or tedious at the time. I want to keep this lesson with me, and challenge myself to keep the larger picture in mind whenever I am getting myself through something I don’t see immediate benefit. Whenever I don’t feel like going for a run, I will remind myself of the long-term cardiovascular benefits. Soon, I will start formally reviewing for the  North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) which will be a challenging endeavor, but I will visualize holding the letter in my hands that will inform me that I have passed.
Guest Post #1: Professions Quest by Andrea Nakamura
Guest Post #1: Professions Quest by Andrea Nakamura
May 6, 2015

I knew that the Professions Quest (PQ) rotation would be different from my previous rotations, so I started it with an open mind. Prior to this experience, I’ve had wonderfully diverse rotations ranging from a small-town community pharmacy in Maine to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan. All of these had a strong focus to reinforce the material that I have been learning in school over the past few years. PQ is a bit different.

Going in, I was aware PQ was a company owned by the AACP which produces simulated multiplayer internet games with the goal to teach interprofessional collaboration to health professions students. I quickly found that the focus of the rotation would not be centered around recalling drug information and therapeutics; rather, the focus was to teach healthcare professionals. In other words, I needed to switch perspectives from the student to the teacher. 

Instead of absorbing information, this rotation requires me to think creatively--to use what I know and make something new. One of the major goals for the six weeks I have at Professions Quest is to write an entire “quest” (a chapter of the game). This will involve selecting a mystery diagnosis, designing background information for the patient and non-player characters, writing branching dialogue and conceptualizing a mini game. Needless to say, therapeutics classes did not prepare me for these sorts of tasks.

Instantly, I was excited to jump into this world of creativity. A large amount of the last 4 years was about memorizing treatment guidelines and drug information and applying what we learned to patient care. I enjoyed pharmacy school a lot, but I was ready for something different. I found myself relating seemingly unrelated things to building quests. During my first week while I was getting ready to go to the office, I was listening to an episode of the TED Radio Hour podcast. The topic was on how play is beneficial to learning, which is exactly what PQ was trying to do. I was inspired by these stories, and my mind started moving at warp speed. I pulled out my notebook to jot down snippets of information that seemed relevant to improving Mimycx, PQ’s first and current project. Throughout this, I was elated, but this feeling was quickly followed by sheer terror. Over the last two years or so, I was so sure that I wanted to pursue a career in ambulatory care, but I haven’t had a feeling to the same degree like this caused by my ambulatory care rotation. Here I was, in my last rotation of pharmacy school, and I was discovering something I was passionate for. Should I try to redirect my career efforts in this direction? Should I continue to pursue ambulatory care and find a way to retain this newfound passion as a creative hobby? I was scared and wasn’t sure what to do.

Since I didn’t want to live life with regrets, I decided to submit an application for the fellowship at Professions Quest. At that time, I had several active applications with various residency programs, and I was waiting for their responses. My solution to my anxiety was to choose both paths, and see what would happen. The ball was out of my court, and it felt good. I was giving a chance to both directions, and by doing so I realized that I would be happy either way.

This experience made it clear to me that there is more than one “right” path to take to find happiness in one’s work, and that it is wise to pursue whatever I think might help me live the life I want. At this time, I’ve done all that I can and now I’m playing the waiting game.
In the spirit of online role playing games:
Andrea Nakamura [human, healer]
Level up!
New skill acquired: Whenever I feel anxious about the future, I will do everything in my power to address it, then accept whatever happens.
Week 5: A Reflection on Six Weeks by E. Maggie Jones

Week 5:  A Reflection on Six Weeks by E. Maggie Jones
March 23, 2015 – March 27, 2015

Time doesn’t stop. Life keeps moving forward. We are each responsible for creating our own happiness.

Week 1:

I saw a well-functioning system, but I didn’t yet understand all of the inner-workings that make AACP a successful organization. Two residency interviews (one out of state) made for a hectic first week, and pushed the majority of my staff meeting engagements to the following week. I figured out that public transportation isn’t always reliable and timely, but didn’t get lost on my hour-long commute. I discovered a Whole Foods in walking distance from the AACP office, and used the lunch hour to clear my head and eat some healthy and delicious food.


I was overwhelmed with my new surroundings during the first week of my AACP APPE. The pace in this part of the country is much different than what I am used to in the Northeast. I would use the term hyperaware to describe how I felt. I wasn’t scared or insecure, but hyperaware of what was going on around me, and trying to figure out what how I was expected to contribute during my rotation.

Week 2:

The middle of week 2 was interrupted by a third and final residency interview. Regardless, I completed all but two staff meetings. The most interesting aspect of these meetings was trying to put all the pieces together in my head regarding how each staff member works with all of the other staff members, and how each of their responsibilities fit into the AACP strategic framework.


I didn’t see what I had expected to during my residency interviews. We learned in pharmacy school that pharmacists in hospitals are actively participating in face-to-face patient care activities, but that isn’t necessarily what I saw in the residency experience that I had hoped to attain since beginning pharmacy school. I was disheartened by this realization, but it made me realize that I wasn’t willing to give up my passion for direct patient care and patient education opportunities at this point in my early career. Meeting with each member of the staff on an individual or team basis was very enlightening in terms of gaining a respect for what goes on “behind the scenes” in pharmacy education. AACP is an incredible source of support and advocacy for the profession, and I trust that AACP will continue to push pharmacy education into the future, creating innovative platforms and offering unique experiences for students. I began to see why this APPE at AACP is so valuable to student pharmacists, and how this unique experience grounds us in our desire to improve the profession.

Week 3:

By the third week of this rotation, I was feeling very sure about my surroundings, and had settled into the steady pace of office work. Two days mid-week I spent time with the current ProfessionsQuest Fellow at the Manassas headquarters, and was first introduced to the future of interprofessional education. A “snow day” was thrown into the mix at the end of the week, and I witnessed the city and public transportation shut down.


I looked forward to my hour-long commutes by this point in the rotation because I was able to utilize the time to relax and reflect on daily tasks and life in general. This is when I began noticing that I was experiencing much less stress on a regular basis. Through pharmacy school, it felt like stress kept piling up higher, but finally at the end of my fourth year I was able to let some of that stress go and just live in the moment. I am not a “gamer” by any standard, but I don’t think you need to be to enjoy the ProfessionsQuest experience. I view this combination of technology, critical thinking skills, and interprofessional practice very forward-thinking of AACP, and also much-needed to supplement our current healthcare education landscape. Where I come from, unless all of the plow trucks break down and it is forty degrees below zero, school isn’t closed and nothing is canceled in my Vermont town.

Week 4:

The first two highlights of this week were not directly related to my AACP rotation. First, I discovered an Xtend Barre studio very near the office, and signed up for a month-long membership. Second, I found out that my last APPE had been changed from Texas back to Maine (where I live currently). In terms of AACP excitement, I was asked by a staff member to write an article response and submit it to Drug Topics for consideration. I had never written a Letter to the Editor before, and had no idea of how to begin. Thankfully, the AACP communications staff members were extremely helpful, and walked me through the process.


Getting into an exercise routine that was convenient in terms of location increased my drive to attend class, and at the end of this week, I felt I was being more productive during the day. After all, one hour is only four percent of your day! The sudden change in travel plans pertaining to my next, and final, APPE came with relief, to be honest. Although I have loved the experience of living and working in the D.C. area, I was ready to return home and live in my own space. I discovered that I wasn’t as excited to move to Texas for six weeks as I thought I would be, and therefore was able to release some stress associated with that move. My big project for the week began with apprehension and fear of the unknown. The most difficult aspect of writing the Letter to the Editor was battling my own insecurities around underestimating the power of one student pharmacist’s opinion.

Week 5:

The AACP Leadership Forum occupied week 5 of my rotation. I traveled to Anaheim, California for the second time in four months, and met many new faces. Two days full of meetings and seminars was exhausting (for someone who isn’t used to it), but very eye-opening. This was my first introduction to the individual leaders of AACP in the form of pharmacy school Deans and faculty. Day two of this forum began at Flight Deck, an airplane flight simulation center that incorporated simulated flying as well as team-building exercises. The day continued with a presentation made by three AACP staff members and I about what pharmacy education will look like in 2025. Finally, the food trucks arrived and we convened in the hotel courtyard to enjoy the beautiful West Coast weather.


This was a crazy week. I found it comforting to be traveling to a place that I had been once before, and navigating the area was much less stressful because I was already familiar with the streets. The main thing I took away from my experience at the forum is the incredible amount of support that we, as student pharmacists, have from those leading AACP boards, groups, and sections. It was clear from the enthusiasm and active participation from these leaders that they want to see the profession grow. It is encouraging to have the support of these individuals, and I wish that I had known about the efforts of AACP’s leaders throughout my schooling. The flight simulation was certainly an interesting experience, and I believe that the team-building that occurred among the past, present, and future AACP leaders was highly valuable. I noticed on my flight back to D.C. that I was more aware of the plane’s movements, especially the landing, after having the flight simulation experience at Flight Deck. I have an increased appreciation for pilots and their expertise!  

Week 6:

This was catch-up week in terms of office work. I did give myself time to reflect on my experience at the AACP Leadership Forum, however, and wrote my Week 5 blog post on the exploration of the new day of the learner in 2025. My final project presentation occurred early in the week, and served to educate AACP internal staff regarding the application process details for ACPE accreditation for continuing pharmacy education. I also authored a letter to incoming APPE students regarding the Alexandria, Virginia/D.C. area food and transportation, the AACP APPE experience as a whole, and some advice regarding following their passions at the start of their pharmacy careers. A couple of the AACP staff took me to lunch at one of their favorite restaurants near the office, Joe Theismann’s, on my final rotation day, and although it was drizzling and gray outside, I won’t forget the bright and bustling nature of King Street anytime soon.


My nerves kicked in before I began presenting to the AACP staff on the ACPE application process, but we had great discussion around the reasons for AACP to be going after such an accreditation. I believe that more staff understand the process and what will be expected of future continuing pharmacy education offerings through AACP now upon accreditation. I have also acquired experience through the ACPE application project that few pharmacists have, and will be able to utilize my familiarity with the accreditation process in future career endeavors. Writing the letter to incoming APPE students allowed me to reflect on the entirety of this rotation, as well as highlight some of the unique experiences that I acquired.

In closing, one of the most tangible skills that I have developed over the course of this six-week APPE is my ability to manage projects. With practice comes an increase in self-confidence, as well as the capability of managing time wisely, and each of these are highly relevant in the career of a practicing pharmacist. The sense of awareness of my surroundings has been heightened through the experience of this APPE, and I have become more in-tune with my reflective capabilities. Overall, what I feel most valuable personally from my AACP experience is that I have been empowered to push the envelope in the preparation of student pharmacists and pharmacy practice. I have seen the power of AACP in leading improvement and growth in these areas, and I recognize that each of us have a place in aiding their mission and sticking up for the advancement of pharmacy as pharmacists and student pharmacists.

I wish that each and every student pharmacist could have an experience at AACP because you develop and mature on a personal level, and you begin to understand the pharmacy landscape (both practice and education) at a professional level.

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Week 4: The Learner's New Day by E. Maggie Jones

Week 4: The Learner’s New Day by E. Maggie Jones
March 16, 2015 – March 20, 2015

I am a learner. You are a learner. We are all learners.

 “What will a day in the life of a learner look like in 2025?” This was the question posed to me before attending the AACP Leadership Forum in Anaheim, California this past week. The purpose of the Leadership Forum is to bring immediate-past, present, and elected AACP leaders together to discuss the success of their section, special interest group, or board. This is also a time for the internal AACP staff to educate attendees on major AACP projects, initiatives, and the financial health of the organization. I was asked to join three AACP staff members and extrapolate what a day in the life of a learner might look like in the near future, and present to all meeting attendees.

To begin my presentation “research,” I examined what I, as a learner of the Millennial generation, require and value in terms of learning and support:

·         Inspiration/Motivation

·         Technology as a resource

·         Interprofessional competencies

In my opinion, inspiration and motivation are the basis of what make learning successful. Personally, I learn most easily when I am inspired by the content or presenter. In pharmacy education, there is a certain amount of memorization that has to take place as basic knowledge. Because of this, I think it can be challenging to incorporate some form of inspiration or motivation on the faculty end of this type of learning. In retrospect, I found it hard to switch to utilizing critical thinking skills during therapeutics work in the later semesters of pharmacy school because I had become so used to utilizing memorization techniques to produce information in earlier semesters. In parallel, I began pharmacy school with a clear sense of wanting to work for the “greater good,” and understanding that as a pharmacist I would be helping people get healthy, and stay well. Through the rigor of my education, I lost this sense. Thankfully, during my year of APPEs I have been able to regain this inspiring and driving vision of what I will be striving for as a young, Millennial-generation pharmacist beginning my career.

Technology plays a major role in the lives of Millennials. We have never known a time when there wasn’t a computer or cellular phone with internet access to be able to look up information that we might desire. We have never known pharmacy without electronic profiles and barcode scanning. I view the technology-focus of Millennial student pharmacist learners as an important resource that can be shaped through education. The sheer amount of information that current student pharmacist learners are required to absorb is incredible. This volume of information will only grow as we continue to make medical advances for future student pharmacist learners. Because of this, there is a need for the use of pharmacy resources, via technology, to be one of the major focuses of the learner’s daily education in the near future. We cannot know everything, and there is nothing wrong with that. But as pharmacists, we need to know where to look for information, and be able to synthesize and educate our patients and peers.

As a soon-to-be newly graduated pharmacist, I have been educated on the fact that pharmacists are now expected to be contributing members of the healthcare team, no matter their clinical setting. However, higher pharmacy education is still lacking, in my opinion, in preparing student pharmacists to be active and contributing members of the healthcare team. Curriculum in many pharmacy schools does not include simple multidisciplinary classes with interprofessional discussions. I want to graduate an interprofessionally competent pharmacist. I want all pharmacists to be interprofessionally competent, and I think that one way to do this is to ensure that student pharmacists have interprofessional practice opportunities during their education.

A Reflection on My "Research"

Through this recent time of reflection on my own career goals, I recognize the need for inspiration to be present during the entirety of pharmacy education. I feel that keeping student pharmacists inspired through storytelling, digital and otherwise, and real-life examples will increase academic performance, and also produce pharmacists with a stronger drive to make a difference in the lives of patients. Through my APPE with AACP, I regained my desire to practice daily patient care, and have found inspiration in hearing of the successes of those currently practicing in community pharmacy. I also realized that while I am a learner, my passion for teaching others is what most motivates me to want to improve the lives of those around me. I feel that inspiration and motivation are what keep our core passions and desires at the forefront of our daily actions.

With an increase in factual knowledge as time moves forward, I believe we will see a decline in the amount of information that becomes memorized by our student pharmacists, and instead a more broad educational approach that emphasizes technology-based resources even more highly than we already do. Another aspect that is interesting to think about is utilizing technology for teaching purposes, much like Skype or Google Chat, instead of teaching in person. Alternatively, student pharmacists could be expected to listen/watch recordings of information online as a more didactic means of education. Even interprofessional education is becoming available through technology via the AACP Professions Quest Mimycx online game platform.

Overall, I don’t believe any of the above ideas are unique to the Millennial generation. I do, however, believe that the way we engage each of these ideas in pharmacy education has to match with what the generation of student pharmacists respond to, which may not be evident to the pharmacy educators (of a different generation). Innovation in pharmacy education is necessary not only to “keep up” with the generation of student pharmacists, but also to continuously advance the profession. Both curricular and co-curricular changes are necessary to increase the innovation in pharmacy education. Through my involvement in student pharmacist organizations, I was able to supplement my pharmacy education and engage my peers in inspirational, technology-based, interprofessional learning.

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