Butler University students compiling book of advice for future pharmacists

October 29, 2007

Four Butler University students are publishing a book about what pharmacists have learned after school. The students are asking pharmacists to share their stories to help other students and young professionals entering the field.

Like most other final-year pharmacy students,Annah Steckel is anxious about her future. "You go through life—throughkindergarten, through grade school, and high school, and you don't have a lotof huge choices to make," she said. "Your parents are pretty much withyou all the way through. Then you get thrown into college, and suddenly you'refaced with all these decisions. You have all these questions and fears about thefuture. It would be nice to get some perspective from someone who has been inyour situation and has survived."

Survival tips are on the way forSteckel and thousands of other pharmacy students preparing to enter the workforcenext year after graduation. The tips are coming from professional pharmacistsand corporate executives; they will be compiled into a book Steckel and threeother Butler University pharmacy students are publishing as part of a researchproject funded by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson. Titled Prescriptionto My Younger Self: What I Learned After Pharmacy School, the book is designedto help pharmacy students better understand what to expect after graduation. Copiesof the book will be given to each graduating pharmacy student next spring andwill be sold on Amazon.com and in mainstream bookstores.

The students—Steckel,Alisha Broberg, Jennell Colwell, and Brad Koselke—have been working on the booksince May. The four got the idea for the book from Erin Albert, an assistant professorwho is serving as the students' mentor for the project. Albert said she suggestedthe idea to teach the students about book publishing and the rewards that cancome from being persistent. "I wanted to impart to the students that theyshould not give up," she said. "As pharmacists, they are not going tohave to go out there and be proactive. They don't have to go out and sell themselvesand sell ideas. This project forces them to do that, and I think that's a reallygood idea."

Selling themselves and the idea for the book was not aneasy task. Not only did the students have to track down busy pharmacists and hard-to-reachcompany executives, they also had to figure out a way to convince these professionalsto write a letter that contained advice about the "pharmacy world" andwhat they have learned since graduation.

"We left the content of theletter open to interpretation, but we simply asked them for the challenges, education,and learning that occurred after pharmacy school and during their professionalcareers," Koselke explained in an e-mail. "We were interested in hearingabout these pharmacists' personal experiences and life lessons that, when sharedwith current graduates, could help to inspire, help, and guide us as we startour professional careers."

With Albert's help, the students composeda list of about 50 pharmacists and corporate executives they wanted to contact,including State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D) of Texas, a pharmacist for morethan 28 years; Jeff Rein, CEO and president of Walgreens; and Thomas Ryan, chairman,president, and CEO of CVS Corp.

Creating the list of pharmacists and corporateexecutives was perhaps the easiest task for the students. Albert made it deliberatelydifficult for the students to find contact information for their targets.

"Manypeople contributed names of respected pharmacists as suggestions for us to contact.However, many could only provide a name," Broberg said. "We used allof our resources within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Butler,including students, faculty, and staff, to help with finding contact informationfor our pharmacists."

Steckel said she was initially "terrified"of contacting Ryan for the project. But that fear was eventually replaced by apersistence she never knew she possessed and a determination that enabled herto remain on the phone one day for 90 minutes as she attempted to reach him. "Iwas getting transferred to all branches of CVS until finally someone decided thatthis could be a worthwhile project," Steckel noted. "I got in contactwith his secretary and he has a committee that reviews events and other thingspeople want him to participate in. Through both [Dr. Albert] and myself workingon it, he is going to participate."

So far, the students have about20 letters ready for publication. The book will head to AuthorHouse, a Bloomington,Ind., publisher, at the end of the year. For the next two months, the studentswill collect any other letters that come in from pharmacists and draft their ownletters for inclusion in the book. The students decided to include their own lettersupon Steckel's suggestion.

"I was sitting down thinking about it,"she recalled. "We've done a lot of work on this project. It's a lot of otherpeople's feelings and emotions going into it. Since students are going to be readingit, wouldn't it be nice if we put something in there about our fears and hesitationsso we can identify with other students who are reading this and feeling the sameway?"

By identifying with pharmacists and others who wrote lettersfor the book, Steckel, Broberg, and Koselke are attempting to provide their fellowstudents with inspiration for their future.

"This will hopefully give[students] firsthand, respected insight into their futures and valuable life lessons/adviceon topics they do not normally learn about in pharmacy school," Koselke said.

Brobergagreed. "I hope this book serves as a reminder to students and recent graduatesthat they can make anything they want out of their degree," she said. "Thepharmacists in our book are proof that the possibilities are endless. I hope thisbook inspires students to become great pharmacists in whatever path they choose."


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