Have you ever wondered what role pharmacists can play in treating animals? Carolyn E. Arnish, PharmD, a PGY-1 Clinical Veterinary Pharmacy Resident at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (NCSU CVM) in Raleigh, North Carolina, details it here.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a residency in clinical veterinary pharmacy?
CA: Because of the lack of didactic and clinical education offered by my pharmacy school. My alma mater was 1 of a few US Accredited Schools of Pharmacy to offer a didactic elective in veterinary pharmacy and also to have clinical rotations. Yet, even this education was not sufficient for someone to specialize in veterinary pharmacy without extra training.
This residency offered me an extra year of education in what I believe is 1 of the most complex specialties because of the variety of species and lack of FDA-approved drugs and literature.
Q: What is the structure of your residency?
CA: The Clinical Veterinary Pharmacy Residency at NCSU CVM is a 1-year program designed to expose pharmacists to a wide variety of veterinary specialties, as well as inpatient and outpatient pharmacy operations.
As residents, we have the opportunity to rotate through all of the clinical services at the Veterinary Hospital: dermatology, neurology, ophthalmology, oncology, general practice, internal medicine, critical care, theriogenology, large animal medicine, and exotics. As you can imagine, along with this variety of services, there is a variety of animal species.
Residents also spend time staffing the inpatient and outpatient pharmacy, which includes sterile and non-sterile compounding. This gives the resident vast experience in working and managing day-to-day operations of a veterinary hospital pharmacy, as well as a retail-like veterinary setting. In addition, the resident spends time answering drug information questions from all over the world via phone and email!
Q: What are your day-to-day tasks?
CA: Day-to-day tasks include:
- Staffing inpatient and outpatient pharmacy at the veterinary hospital
- Compounding, sterile and non-sterile
- Answering drug information questions from veterinarians, pharmacists, and pet owners
- Working on research projects (we are required to complete 1 on any topic in veterinary health)
- Working on lecture and poster presentations
- Running drug-interactions for in-hospital animals
- Assisting in precepting pharmacy students (we had 27 this year!)
- Shadowing clinical service to learn about veterinary anatomy, drug therapy, and clinical cases
- Participating in Veterinary Pharmacology Journal Club
- Assisting in teaching Veterinary Pharmacy Elective at the University of Northa Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy
- Teaching a veterinary pharmacy module to 4th Year DVM Students on law and compounding
- Giving tours and providing information to current pharmacy students interested in veterinary pharmacy
- Writing newsletter articles for veterinary pharmacy organizations
Q: How did you decide your residency program was the right fit for you?
CA: Very good question. My simple answer is that it was the only residency program available in 2014, so I didn’t have a choice. But, truly, I knew it was the perfect program for me because of the location, description of program, the fact that it has graduated 4 successful residents before my year, and the reputability of the residency director.
For the PharmD graduates of 2016 and beyond (2015 spots are already filled), there are currently 3 residency programs in veterinary pharmacy in the United States: NC State, Purdue University, and UC Davis (all are located at the veterinary school of the institution). Each residency takes only 1 to 2 residents per year and UC Davis takes 1 resident every other year. None of these programs is through the PhORCAS Match, so be sure to know the requirements and deadlines of each program.
None of the programs are currently accredited by any pharmacy organization, but they do make you eligible for Fellow or Diplomat status in veterinary pharmacy organizations and make you a competitive candidate for the veterinary pharmacy jobs that are available.
Q: What career opportunities does a pharmacy resident have after completion of a clinical veterinary program?
CA: The career opportunities are just as diverse as in human medicine; there are just fewer positions available. They include:
- Retail pharmacist (mainly independent and/or compounding)
- Hospital pharmacist (veterinary hospitals)
- Industry pharmacist (there are many veterinary-only brand and generic companies that are subdivisions of human drug companies)
- Government/Advocacy (law, legislation)
- Entrepreneurship (get creative!)
- Consulting (aquariums, zoos, compounding, pharmacokinetics, research, small veterinary clinics, or other veterinary/pharmacy organizations that cannot afford a full-time pharmacist)
- Writing and Education (teaching at pharmacy schools and veterinary schools or writing drug literature)
Q: How do you see the demand for pharmacists specialized in veterinary care changing in the future?
CA: Based on the NABP’s Resolution 110-5-14 (May 2014), I believe that the future of veterinary pharmacy is going to be greater than current pharmacists think. The resolution states: “NABP encourages the development and availability of veterinary pharmacology education at colleges and schools of pharmacy in collaboration with schools of veterinary medicine [and] that pharmacists dispensing medications for veterinary patients possess the competence and have access to resources necessary to appropriately dispense and provide care.”
As veterinary prescriptions increase, pharmacist exposure to veterinary medicine will drive the implementation of veterinary pharmacy education, hopefully not purely as a result of medication errors. This resolution by the NABP means that veterinary pharmacy education is in the pipeline of PharmD education!
Q: What advice do you have for students looking to pursue a residency in veterinary pharmacy?
CA: Tailor your pharmacy education, community service, and other activities to veterinary medicine to show your passion for the field! Become a member of the Society of Veterinary Hospital Pharmacists and the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists, and then attend their meetings to network and learn about the latest issues in the field.
Take all didactic courses and clinical rotations available to you in pharmacy school that are related to veterinary medicine. Embrace the OneHealth Initiative and remember, “real doctors treat more than 1 species.”
Pharmacists are currently the only health care professionals that have both human and veterinary patients.
Dr. Arnish completed her Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2014 at MCPHS University in Boston, Massachusetts. Her interests within veterinary pharmacy include non-sterile compounding, pharmacokinetics across species, theriogenology, and small/exotic animal general practice. During her residency at NCSU CVM, Dr. Arnish is working on 2 research projects: “Dog-and-Cat-Owner Medication Adherence Challenges” and “Veterinary Pharmacy Education Prevalence and Perceptions.” After her residency, she hopes to work in both a clinical and academic setting to promote life-long learning as veterinary pharmacy continues to grow and evolve.
Timothy O'Shea, MS, PharmD
Timothy O'Shea, MS, PharmD, is a Clinical Pharmacist working at a regional health insurance plan on the east coast. Additionally he works per diem at a nationwide retail pharmacy chain. He graduated from MCPHS University - Boston in 2015 and subsequently completed a PGY-1 Managed Care Pharmacy Residency. He completed his M.S. in Health Services Administration, with a focus on Health Economics and Outcomes, in 2018. His professional interests include pharmacy legislation and managed care pharmacy. He can be followed on Twitter at @toshea125.