California Northstate University College of Pharmacy


The California Northstate University College of Pharmacy focuses on actively engaging students within the classroom.

Location: Rancho Cordova, California

Founded: 2008

Enrollment: 406 Students

Although the California Northstate University College of Pharmacy is still young, Dean Shane Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is optimistic about the future of the school and its students.

“We have not yet been around that long, but it feels as though our program grows wiser by the year, month, week, and day,” he said in an interview with Pharmacy Times. “We are only beginning to tap the resources and partnerships availed to us by excellent area pharmacists, health systems, community pharmacies, academic institutions, and organizations outside of pharmacy.”

Launched in 2008, the school avoids traditional lecturing and instead focuses on actively engaging students within the classroom. The approach, known as “team-based learning,” requires students to learn and understand basic concepts on their own and then to work with their professors and peers to apply those ideas during class time.

Students also apply their knowledge outside of the classroom in community outreach programs. “There is hardly a week, perhaps not even several days that go by without our students engaged in, or even organizing a health fair,” Desselle said.

Both students and faculty participate, providing a variety of services including brown bag consults, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, cancer education, and nutrition counseling.

The colleges is located in the Sacramento area and graduated its first class of pharmacists in May of 2012.

Students of the California Northstate University College of Pharmacy frequently participate in health fairs.

Q: What is unique about your school/program?

A: Our program has a number of distinguishing qualities, but perhaps most salient is our use of the team-based learning approach throughout the didactic component of our curriculum. Through various mechanisms, such as Weekly Summits, there even are facets of team-based learning reinforced in students’ experiential rotations.

Our program also has a definitive bent toward servicing at-risk populations, featuring courses in public health, and perhaps more importantly, a focus of such in our vision and goal statements. We have 18 active student organizations, and all of them are out and about providing public health in an interdisciplinary environment.

Our partners are diverse and range from Sacramento County law enforcement, to the California Product Stewardship Council, and the California Status University—Sacramento School of Nursing. As it pertains to the latter, our interdisciplinary efforts with them were cited as a foundation for a best practice recently by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Q: What is the teaching style or philosophy?

A: We employ team-based learning for a number of reasons. For one, it epitomizes active learning. Second, its use inherently involves assessment of student performance virtually each and every day. Additionally, the fact that students have to be accountable as individuals, but also work within teams to derive solutions to certain problems and scenarios emulates contemporary pharmacy practice.

The team-based learning format has students actively engaged and communicating with one another and with the faculty member throughout each class session. Preliminary evidence on team-based learning and our own anecdotal experience suggest that the impact on students’ communication skills, leadership ability, and camaraderie is very positive.

Q: What advice do you have for students who will graduate this year?

A: It is never too late to find a unique career path or interest, yet there is also everything noble about working in a more “traditional” setting.

Please take the opportunity to learn about various alternatives during your advanced practice rotations. You will gain more knowledge about career choices if you immerse yourself into these experiences. Experiential education is such a large part of the curriculum for a reason (well, many reasons). No matter how solid your didactic foundation, there is still much to learn during your rotations.

At the same time, while you should exhibit the utmost loyalty and professionalism to your employer, do not feel as though your first job places you in that particular setting for a lifetime. Leverage your skills in lifelong learning to reinvent yourself every so often throughout your career, as do many of the best and most effective professionals.

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