When Do Students Decide They Are Going to Become Pharmacists?


One entrepreneurial student had his first experience with pharmacy in high school, is that where we should be starting?

I had the chance to speak to Ryan Hannan, a P3 student pharmacist who completed Drake University’s DeltaRx summer entrepreneurial program. As a PharmD/MBA student, Ryan chose Drake, a small Midwestern private pharmacy school because he felt the opportunities aligned with his desire to work in informatics and land a residency that supports that work, but his journey began 6 years earlier.

Joseph T. Dipiro, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) president, posed an important question during his address of the 2015-2016 President-elect to the AACP House of Delegates. He asked “[how] can we assure sufficient numbers of high quality students coming into our PharmD and graduate programs? This is strategic plan priority number one.”Although this is a single case, by looking at Hannan’s path, we can see that an interest in pharmacy can come from an early age and help a student develop specific interests that can inform their choice of pharmacy school.

Hannan said he’s been in pharmacy for 6 years since 2010 when he was accepted as one of 2 students to a 2-year youth apprenticeship program in his junior year of high school. The first year he worked as a clerk and the second year he worked as a filling data entry technician. He found about Drake from the high school program and visited Drake twice before committing. Hannan said he liked that Drake had an emphasis on a customized curriculum and felt that Drake laid out a curricular road map with opportunities for organizational involvement, the DeltaRx entrepreneurial program, and a track record of placing graduates in residency.

Most of Hannan’s leadership positions centered on supporting the financial aspects of an organization. He’s become involved with APhA-ASP, the Phi Lambda Sigma (PLS) honorary pharmacy society, Kappa Psi professional pharmacy fraternity, and the Drake Pharmacy Unified Group of Students (DRxUGS). As part of the MBA program, some of his coursework helps him develop as a leader within the organizations and as a future leader.

The college advertises 10-week paid summer internships in the DeltaRx program and students apply with a cover letter, resume, references, and an essay. The businesses then choose a handful of students to interview and each hires one. The “timing couldn’t have been better, “ said Hannan, “as the summer MBA data analysis and finance classes helped me during the internship.” He interned at a 2-pharmacy site, Ankeny Pharmacy, a retail pharmacy, and Right Dose Pharmacy, a long-term care closed door pharmacy that sit adjacent to each other in its Central Iowa location. During the experience, he had varied experiences with a technology emphasis.

Hannan worked drawing up an application, worked on backend device management, and had opportunities to sit in on continuous quality improvement meetings. Within the long-term care space, Hannan had the opportunity to work on redesigning medication error reporting comparing electronic versus paper, layout information, and reigniting medication therapy management (MTM). While the 10-week program provided a foundation, he wanted to continue his work and came on board as a part-time pharmacy intern.

Hannan says he has two advisors, one from the college of pharmacy and one from the college of business. This allows for a team based effort in looking toward fourth year clinical and postgraduate plans. He currently looks to complete an informatics-based residency either in Iowa or in Wisconsin. Knowing that he wanted to be a pharmacist allowed him to enroll in a 6-year program and he looks to use the 2 years he would have spent as an undergraduate in a PGY-1 and PGY-2 residency program.

Helping students who have an interest in the pharmacy profession start their journey early in high school may allow them to move into 5- or 6-year programs that allow them both the breadth of experience and focus to graduate relatively quickly. Getting out of pharmacy school in fewer years allows for more time to consider postgraduate residencies, fellowships, and other avenues as well and seems a win-win for the students.

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