Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy


The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy dean's advice for graduating students is to think about what employers are looking for when they hire pharmacists.

Richmond, Virginia

Founded: 1898

Class size: 140 students

The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Pharmacy dean’s advice for graduating students is to think about what employers are looking for when they hire pharmacists. Character, work ethic, leadership and communication skills, and the ability to be a team-player can be more important than GPA.

Dean Joseph DiPiro, PharmD, tells VCU pharmacy students that there are a multitude of interesting career opportunities in both traditional and nontraditional areas of pharmacy.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Dr. DiPiro suggested that pharmacy students focus on their interviewing skills and be flexible when they consider geographic locations for jobs. They should find a position that will let them grow and develop professionally.

VCU may be the right place for some pharmacy students to develop their academic skills before they head out to the real world. VCU’s School of Pharmacy has 3 academic departments: Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, Pharmaceutics, and Medicinal Chemistry. The school also offers dual MS and PhD degrees and a Certificate in Aging Studies.

“Residencies with the school are available in community pharmacy practice, academia, and ambulatory care, and the VCU Health System offers administration, ambulatory care, and pharmacy practice residencies,” Dr. DiPiro added.

The school is also home to the Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine, the Bioanalytical Laboratories Service Center, the VCU Coagulation Advancement Lab, the Aerosol Research Group, and the Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery. Down the road, the school will also have a Center for Compounding Practice and Research and a Center for Pharmacy Transformation.

Q: What is unique about your school/program?

A: VCU School of Pharmacy, with roots dating back to the original Medical College of Virginia, is located within a major academic medical center. This affords faculty and students access to a variety of disciplines involved in training and educating health care professionals. We have a longstanding focus on interprofessional education and practice.

For nearly 50 years, we have maintained a dedicated core of preceptors, about 40% of whom are alumni of the school.

In 2007, we opened a satellite campus affiliated with the Inova Health System in Fairfax, Virginia; and in 2012, the U.Va. Division opened in affiliation with the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville. The satellite locations allow third- and fourth-year students the option to work within other medical centers.

Q: What is the teaching style or philosophy?

A: Faculty embrace a student-centered active learning environment, integrating innovative teaching methods including team-based learning and collaborative learning. The campus setting affords students opportunities to collaborate with students from other health professions: medicine, dentistry, nursing, and the allied health professions.

During a recent accreditation visit, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education evaluation team commended the school on its teaching methods and its progressive and innovative curriculum.

Q: What are some community outreach activities or programs the school participates in?

A: Located in the heart of Virginia’s capital city, the school has a history of community engagement that allows students to become involved in a number of area partnerships and to work directly with patients.

Among the participating community partners are retirement homes, free clinics, homeless shelters, and a “compassionate care” pharmacy.

Between 2001 and 2014, 14 faculty members, more than 500 students, and 35 residents participated in more than 20,000 patient care encounters.

Students also volunteer for health care fairs in the Richmond area and participate in medical missions both at home and abroad.

In addition, many student organizations take part in philanthropic endeavors to advocate for the profession of pharmacy.

The school’s community engagement work recently was recognized by the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to VCU.

What opportunities do students have for internships or co-ops?

Many students complete internships in the Richmond metropolitan area and at our satellite campuses. These student intern opportunities are provided by community pharmacy partners as well as the VCU Health System, Inova Health System, and University of Virginia Health System.

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