There is no greater support team available to students than their pharmacy school.
"Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach."
This was a quote that I had always lived by and yet didn’t truly grasp until I was given the opportunity to teach during pharmacy school. I had always enjoyed the concept of teaching and ensuring the success of others, whether that be through hosting review sessions for classmates, peer-reviewing assignments, or tutoring underclassmen.
It was gratifying being able to witness the growth and progress of others while knowing that I had played a significant role in helping them doing so. In the fall quarter of my third year of pharmacy school at Midwestern University, I was approached by a faculty member about my passion for teaching.
I was given the opportunity to create and teach a lecture of my choice in the Women’s Health elective, a course that was to be offered in the spring for second-year pharmacy students. I was elated because this was the experience I had always dreamed of but didn’t think would become a reality while still in pharmacy school.
Cardiology had always been a passion-topic of mine, so I knew I wanted to create a lecture that incorporated it with the backbone of women’s health. Thus, I chose the topic “ASCVD [Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease] Risk in Women,” and excitedly began working toward creating learning objectives for my lecture.
I met closely with a faculty member who was a clinical pharmacist in cardiology and I gained insight into how to curate a lecture that was informative, yet still relevant for students to relate to. She offered me advice on presentation skills, and what she found over years of teaching were the most effective methods on commanding a room of students.
Over the course of a few weeks, I met with one of the course directors to design a thorough overview of my lecture and establish the most concise way of presenting it. I initially created a tentative PowerPoint presentation, outlining the content I wanted to include and correlating each heading to an individual learning objective.
Through doing this, I was able to visualize a clear idea on what my presentation would look like and ensure that it would flow easily for students to follow. I looked to past lecture notes for inspiration on sentence structure, case questions, and overall content organization.
Once the foundation of my lecture was complete, I began thoroughly researching the topic and accumulating a series of relevant videos, graphics, and clinical guidelines. Researching beforehand provided me with a better understanding on the prevalence of the topic and the confidence I needed to lecture on it.
Once I was content with the information I had compiled, I was able to complete my slides and create quiz questions to be incorporated into the students’ assessment for the course. I met one last time with my course advisor for final feedback and made the appropriate edits that were recommended to me.
Weeks passed and my presentation date was nearing. However, it soon became apparent that due to the coronavirus disease 2019 situation, classes would be given online and I would have to pre-record my lecture for the students. I looked at this new obstacle in my path as an opportunity to challenge myself and strengthen my abilities as a student teacher.
To prepare, I practiced presenting my lecture multiple times and ensured my pace, tone, and speed were appropriate for the allocated time I was given. I also created supplementary notes for myself that included additional information not presented on the slides, but that I felt were important to share with the students.
This method provided students with the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the topic, as I would share stories, personal accounts, and statistics that provided an overall greater picture. With the help of the course directors, I mentally prepared myself for the change in setting on the day of my presentation and was able to record the lecture from home.
My lecture went live the following week and students were able to watch and gain a better understanding on the distinct risks of ASCVD in women. This experience offered me a glimpse into the life of a faculty member and an even greater appreciation for all their hard work and efforts. During moments of self-doubt, my faculty advisors were a constant source of motivation, support, and encouragement.
Student teaching was an enlightening experience, and one that I would strongly encourage any student to pursue. It may seem a bit daunting in the beginning, but there are a few key steps that can be taken in order to alleviate any feelings of stress or worry.
First, I would strongly recommend establishing a concise outline of your lecture. Often, it can become overwhelming when researching a topic and compiling the content. Outlining a lecture keeps the presentation organized, for both the presenter and the audience.
Second, it’s pertinent that a student presenter allocates enough time to complete the lecture and practice presenting it. Practicing allows the words to begin to flow naturally and students will remain engaged in the topic. Finally, it’s critical to remember to use the multitude of pharmacy resources that are accessible to students when creating a lecture.
Pharmacy faculty, colleagues, and co-workers are great outlets for advice, insight, and support. There is no greater support team available to students than their pharmacy school, therefore, I highly recommend seeking help and gaining feedback from those with experiences to share.
If there is a topic in pharmacy that you feel passionate about and want to explore, do your research, create a goal, and contact faculty for additional guidance. Through hard work, drive, and motivation, any dream, whether big or small, is attainable. Opportunities are always available, you just have to be willing to take the chance and be confident in what you have to offer.
On a final note, to any students who hope to eventually pursue teaching but are hesitant to do so—do it. Because it will make all the difference in how you perceive the field and what you are truly capable of achieving.
About the Author
Jenine Abuzir, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2021, Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy.