Pharmacy professionals and students gathered for a roundtable discussion held by Pharmacy Times during the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in Orlando, Florida, in July 2007. The discussion was mediated by David Trang, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Feik School of Pharmacy at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), San Antonio, Texas.

The purpose of the discussion was to gauge the readiness of pharmacy students for their future careers and to determine if academia had prepared them properly. Trang opened the discussion by asking for comments about the current state of pharmacy. Michele Belsey, vice president of college and professional recruitment with Rite-Aid Corp, noted the evolution of 2 types of pharmacists: those who want to provide more regular clinical care, such as immunizations, and those who prefer the daily activities involved in quality assurance for each prescription. Nora Stelter, PharmD, director of education and training for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, pointed out that both roles were equally important.

Margie Snyder, PharmD, community practice research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, said that recent graduates tend to notice "a disconnect from what is emphasized in school and what students are truly going to see in practice. The focus should be on skill development and problem solving in both arenas, both dispensing and traditional clinical work," she said.

George Downs, PharmD, dean emeritus of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, told of the limited options available to pharmacy students years ago: "One [option] was to open their own pharmacy. The other was, if you were a woman, you went into hospital pharmacy." He went on to laud the changes that have taken place over the years. "We have seen our students take on tremendous roles that were never even imaginable," he said.

Trang directed the next topic toward pharmacy students, asking if they felt they were getting adequate training to prepare them to practice in the real world. Laura Cardwell from UIW said that she would like to see more problem-based learning in today's classrooms, and Snyder thought that students should focus more on skill development. Jodie Malhotra, PharmD, also an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at UIW, said that she was not sure "whether we are preparing our students early enough and educating them on all the different opportunities that they could potentially have."

Joseph Barone, PharmD, FCCP, chairman of pharmacy practice at Rutgers University (Piscataway, NJ), was concerned that pharmacy students may be feeling overwhelmed by the many options open to them. He believes that faculty should try to become more involved in counseling students to help them narrow down their feasible choices so that they do not exhaust themselves exploring every opportunity offered to them. Ben Thankachan, RPh, manager of talent services and campus relations for Wal-Mart, agreed with trying not "to scare [students] away from what their passion is." He also expressed the importance of students not only learning the clinical aspects of pharmacy, but also the personal aspects—"patient skills, business skills, financial skills, just interpersonal skills with people," as well as cultural competency, so they can be ready to serve patients wherever they may find themselves.

The topic of medication therapy management (MTM) was brought up as it related to current pharmacy students, and the professionals were asked if they felt that the pharmacy schools were doing enough to prepare their students for dealing with their patients. Snyder reported that, while there may not be a great financial gain at the outset, seeing the interaction between patients, caregivers, and pharmacists in the clinic she works is "really a beautiful thing." As the pharmacists continue to work on getting provider status and having a consistent billing mechanism, she said that the important thing was that the patients were seeing their pharmacists in an enhanced role as an informative health care provider.

Andrew Peterson, PharmD, chair of the department of pharmacy practice/ administration, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, expressed concern that his students were apprehensive about discussing reimbursement for counseling services. "They think it is part of their job to?counsel, whether it is 1 minute or 20 minutes," he said. Dr. Peterson suggested more emphasis on helping students understand that they should be compensated for their knowledge and time.

This led into a discussion of the phenomena of retail clinics, and Trang asked the panel how they felt they were helping the progression of MTM. Barone pointed out the different roles a pharmacist plays when working within a retail clinic setting inside a pharmacy. "When I am in the mini clinic, I am under a separate agreement, and then my role changes when I work with the pharmacy. I am the clinic pharmacist within the pharmacy, and then when I am outside that clinic, I am the 'pharmacist' pharmacist." He feared that students entering these arenas might become confused by the different roles they may have to play in those settings.

Snyder pointed out that an important part of patient relations is "figuring out what [the patients] want." She explained, "If you start out the conversation when you sit down with a patient and say ?What do you need?,' ?What...are you not getting?,' and ?What can I do for you?,'" patients become more at ease and more responsive to receiving medication information from their pharmacist. Dr. Malhotra said in closing, "I think what I have seen just being with groups?is that it is continually evolving. The majority of it is optimistic, and positive changes [are coming] for our patients and our profession and health care overall."