Upcoming Pharmacy Resident Students Continue to Balance Uncertainty, Optimism as Pandemic Continues


However, as of 2021, the biggest concern for students at MCW is getting into a residency program in general.

Back in May 2020, the inaugural class at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) School of Pharmacy in Milwaukee exceeded the 2020 national average as a first-year Match Day participant, with more than 70% of residency applicants matched during phase 1 and 2, according to an MCW article.1

As the pharmacy school graduates began their PGY-1 residencies last year at the peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the residents expressed concern with feeling ill-prepared, the uncertainty of life post-COVID-19, and limited engagement between medical teams and their patients in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. However, as of 2021, the biggest concern for students at MCW is getting into a residency program in general.2

“There are so many great applicants with few spots available, and it is really competitive to get in. I feel that the MCW School of Pharmacy has prepared me for these situations, and I know that I will be ready to step into any program and be successful with any program that I match with,” said Aubrey Cutler, MCW School of Pharmacy, Class of 2021, in an email to Pharmacy Times®.

As for handling any extra training to prepare for administering the COVID-19 vaccine, the MCW School of Pharmacy had the students complete Immunization Certification from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists as a part of their curriculum during school.

“I feel that having the experience from giving other immunizations has prepared us well to administer COVID-19 vaccines without experiencing any extra stress or issues,” Cutler said.

George E. MacKinnon III, PhD, MS, RPh, FASHP, founding dean and professor at MCW School of Pharmacy and Pharmacy Times® board member, said that the pharmacy school’s adjustments to the pandemic were right in line with the school’s overall mission. For example, the MCW School of Pharmacy joined with the MCW Office of Research to jointly lead the creation of a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on the Milwaukee campus to administer the Pfizer vaccine to identified IA individuals starting on December 22, 2020.

“Many of our student pharmacists volunteered over the holiday break to assist in the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, along with our school of pharmacy faculty and staff. To date, we have had 100% participation in the clinic from our school of pharmacy faculty and staff and 40% of student pharmacists participating (many are also engaged in vaccine delivery on clinical rotations),” MacKinnon said in an email to Pharmacy Times®. “At MCW, we have run very successful COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics, administering about 6500 Pfizer vaccines to 1A health care providers (through 2-3-21). As an immunizing pharmacist and dean, I am very proud of the efforts of our school of pharmacy in responding to the pandemic.”

As for the value of the pharmacist in general, Cutler said that the pharmacist is irreplaceable, as they play a vital role in the patient care continuum.

“Pharmacists are more accessible and are in most retail stores. There are many independent community pharmacies that are easy to get access to as well. Patients that I have talked with have also mentioned that they are more comfortable talking and opening up to pharmacists than they are with doctors,” Cutler said. “The pharmacist role is also expanding from only dispensing medications. Pharmacists are able to provide immunizations, certain medication injectables, point-of-care testing, and now we are helping with the COVID vaccine response. We are now able to help with so much more and help increase the quality of patient care in the health care field.”

MacKinnon added that he hopes to see pharmacists continue to be recognized as an important part of the health care model for years to come.

“Pharmacists, particularly in community pharmacies, are often the closest, most accessible and frequently seen health care provider in urban to rural communities. The Association of American Medical Colleges 2020 Report projected shortfalls in primary care range between 21,400 and 55,200 physicians by 2033. With the ongoing shortage of primary care providers, it is imperative for patient care that new models of care are conceived of that include pharmacists as providers of the health care team,” MacKinnon said.


  1. MCW school of pharmacy inaugural class finds success in first residency match day. MCW. https://www.mcw.edu/education/pharmacy-school/news/mcw-school-of-pharmacy-inaugural-class-finds-success-in-first-residency-match-day. Published March 23, 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  2. Murphy, Jill. Pharmacy residents balancing uncertainty, optimism during pandemic. Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/pharmacy-residents-balancing-uncertainty-optimism-during-pandemic. Published May 12, 2020. Accessed March 12, 2021.
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