CLAREMONT, Calif. – Derick Han, an associate professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), calls pharmacy one of the most misunderstood health professions. Even Christine Cadiz, an assistant professor of clinical sciences and a practicing pharmacist, notes that she didn’t know all the professional options open to her until she started pharmacy school.
“We targeted students with an interest in health sciences but not a lot of exposure to pharmacy yet,” explains Cadiz. “We wanted to expose them to a lot of different specialty areas and give them a taste of what they would do in their professional careers.”
The five-day summer program, offered for the first time in 2019, introduced prospective pharmacy students to pharmacy education and practice through faculty presentations, hands-on clinical activities such as drug compounding, and a team-based project. Undergraduate students at four-year institutions and community colleges, current and entering high school seniors, and students entering KGI’s Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program were invited to participate.
The initial group consisted of 22 students, including those who traveled to Claremont from Northern California and the East Coast to attend. Several current KGI PharmD students were also involved, volunteering to serve as mentors to the PrEP students.
“I was impressed by the engagement not only of the participating students, but also our student volunteers and faculty. They’re the ones who made the program a success,” says Cadiz.
She points to the feedback from participants, noting the example of a student who arrived with an interest in psychiatry and learned of a related career path in psychiatric pharmacy through the program.
Han says of another student currently applying to pharmacy schools, “She said she left the program inspired and more certain that pharmacy is the field she wanted.”
Students who had already committed to pharmacy also found the PrEP program valuable. They include Pranai Pasamarti, PharmD ’23, who has worked as a pharmacy technician and is planning to follow other family members into a retail pharmacy career.
“The lectures were definitely my favorite part,” says Pasamarti. “All of the professors chose topics they were really passionate about. I was especially interested in hearing about the opioid crisis, how it began, and what we can do to combat it.”
He found the timing of the PrEP program particularly helpful, explaining, “There was a month gap between the program and the start of classes. I was able to know how to prepare myself, what to study, and what I needed to review.”
Like his KGI classmate, Alex Amezquita, PharmD ’23, is starting at KGI with some background in pharmacy. He took part in Kaiser Permanente’s Apothecary Circle program while an undergraduate, interning in outpatient, inpatient, and ambulatory care pharmacies. Yet Amezquita also benefited from the PrEP program.
“I’d never compounded a drug before. It was very hands-on, and I’m that kind of learner,” says Amezquita.
“I’d also heard that team-based learning is big at KGI, but I didn’t know exactly what to expect. The program gives you a taste of that right away.”
Amezquita lists the group activities and opportunity to meet faculty and the dean even before starting the PharmD program as the biggest highlights. Already hoping to obtain a pharmacy residency after earning his degree at KGI, Amezquita also appreciated the advice of current students and graduates about residencies, coursework, internships, and leadership opportunities at KGI.
“I feel like a learned a lot,” says Amezquita. “But it’s not just about the things you learn, even for a pharmacy student already coming in. The program has benefits because a big part of pharmacy is taking pride in pharmacy.”
After seeing the impact of the first PrEP program, Han and Cadiz plan to offer it again next summer. They are already considering additional topics to include, such as ethics in pharmacy, and ways to attract more community college students.
Cadiz adds, “We had great faculty engaged in the program, and they will think of new ways to present the topics and also look for emerging or hot topics.”
Interested in learning more about KGI’s PrEP summer program? Visit kgi.edu/summer.