The hunt starts early for the pharmacists of tomorrow


Industry and academe collaborate on opportunities for young people to explore the range of careers in pharmacy.

It’s common to see high school and even some middle school students rummaging around the St. Louis College of Pharmacy (STLCOP) throughout the summer. They’re part of three distinct programs that the college uses to attract   students, specifically minorities, at an early age to pharmacy careers.

“It was an unbelievable experience to work with all the students who participated in the program,” said Clark Kebodeaux, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and a Walgreens pharmacist, speaking of the Walgreens-St. Louis College of Pharmacy Career Explorers Diversity Outreach Program. “It is truly a privilege to introduce these aspiring high school students from the St. Louis metropolitan area to the wonderful profession of pharmacy.”

STLCOP is not alone. Across the country, pharmacy schools and corporate sponsors are creating and participating in programs designed to identify tomorrow’s pharmacy workers. At the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), experts believe that such efforts are vital.


Early student engagement

“It’s important for pharmacy schools to identify high school and even K-12 students who might be interested in healthcare careers, or more specifically, pharmacy careers,” said Jennifer Adams, PharmD, AACP’s senior director of strategic academic partnerships. “We all remember when we were young and our parents and teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and those questions continue for children today. Maybe you said you wanted to be a physician, because anyone in a white coat in your six-year-old mind was a physician, but you may have been interacting with - and been influenced by - a number of different healthcare professionals wearing a white coat.”

AACP supports its member institutions in educating those applying to pharmacy school and also those in the educational pipeline, Adams said, noting, “AACP also has nine member institutions that accept students immediately after they graduate from high school.”

AACP has several programs designed to identify and recruit pharmacy students. They include Pharmacy is Right for Me, a collaboration with the American Pharmacists Association, OptumRx, and other pharmacy groups; and participation in the American School Counselor Association National Conference and the USA Science & Engineering Festival.


Pharmacy career options

“AACP’s goal is to open attendees’ eyes to the broad range of pharmacy careers available,” said Lucinda L. Maine, executive vice president and CEO of AACP. “By educating a younger generation on the possibilities in this health profession, we hope to inspire students to consider a career in pharmacy or the pharmaceutical sciences.”

At STLCOP, the aforementioned Explorer’s program is designed to give a diverse group of high school juniors and seniors an inside look at the pharmacy profession.

During the four-week program, students attended classes, work as pharmacy technicians at Walgreens, and make field trips to places such as the St. Louis Zoo’s Endangered Species Research Center & Veterinary Hospital and Corum Health Services. During the program’s 14 years of operation, approximately 80 graduates have subsequently enrolled at STLCOP.

““[The students’] desire to learn and their engaging personalities kept me focused and inspired. It was a great pleasure to meet each of them and work with them for the four weeks of the program,” said Kilinyaa Cothran, RPh, STLCOP’s director of professional affairs. “I know that each of them will be successful in whatever endeavors they choose, but I hope that they choose to join us here at STLCOP.”

Two years ago, STLCOP began a Summer Pharmacy Academy for 7th and 8th graders from McKinley Classical Junior Academy. During that one-week program, approximately 30 students gain experience in the lab, compounding medications. They learn about drug interactions, how medicines affect the body, medical terminology, and how dosages are calculated. The students also create their own lip balm and calamine lotion.

STLCOP’s third program is the BESt Pharmacy Summer Institute, a collaboration with Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Express Scripts. Students in this six-week program focus on improving their mathematics, science, language arts, and ACT/SAT skills. They also visit the pharmacy at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Express Scripts facility.

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