JANUARY 01, 2007
Lorraine Nelson

FOUR PHARMACY STUDENTS from Washington State University (WSU) beat out teams from the University of Kentucky and the University of Houston on October 8, 2006, in Las Vegas, Nev, to win the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) annual student business plan competition.

All 3 teams presented their plans orally to a panel of judges after being chosen finalists in an earlier competition.

Besides the fame the victory has brought to the 4 students and their advisor on their campus in Pullman, Wash, the win earned the group of 5 an expense-paid trip to the NCPA Multiple Locations meeting in February in Aruba, and they get to take their college dean with them. Their winnings also included $3000 for their NCPA student chapter and another $3000 for the dean to use to promote independent pharmacy in the college.

How did they beat out the 29 other teams in the competition? "They had the best written plan," says their advisor, Linda Garrelts MacLean, a clinical assistant professor and an interim department chair at the college. "They had done their homework, and it showed. Their plan was practical and proposed a junior partnership to take over Sid's Pharmacy in Pullman."

While their live performance was not as "slick" as that by another team, the WSU students did best in the question-answer session, MacLean said. She named at least 15 other individuals—mostly pharmacists—who actively participated in helping the students formulate their business plan.

Student Jason Doss said the experience has been great so far. "I feel like I have learned a lot about the real-life running of a business, and have had a ton of fun doing it," Doss said.

His teammate Corrine Gavrun said, "This experience confirmed for me the value of teamwork, and that hard work and dedication truly pay off in the end."

Team member Joshua Fancher added, "I think we were successful because we had a great advisor, Linda, who introduced us to many independent pharmacy owners. These owners shared their knowledge with us?."

Daniela Beilic agreed with her teammate that MacLean was key to the team's success. "We could not have done this without many of our professors and our friends who generously provided us with feedback," Beilic said. "But in the end, there is one person who helped us polish and bind so well together into the winning business plan team—our foremost supporter, mentor, and professor, Linda Garrelts MacLean." Beilic said she has expanded her horizons as a result of this experience.

All 4 students are in their second year of pharmacy school. Their expenses to the Las Vegas convention were paid by the NCPA.

The goal of the NCPA competition is to promote interest in independent community pharmacy ownership. It has grown since its first year in 2004, when a WSU team placed second among 16 teams and won $4000. This year, the judges reviewed 30 plans from schools all over the country.

The award is supported by contributions from the families of 2 champions of independent pharmacy—H. Joseph Schutte and Neil Pruitt, Sr—and by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

Ms. Nelson is the communications coordinator at Washington State University College of Pharmacy.

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