By Laura Janota | From the Fall 2011 issue of Roosevelt Review
The first class of students in Roosevelt University’s new College of Pharmacy embodies the spirit that has always defined Roosevelt University.
“I want to help the world overcome illnesses like malaria and cancer,” said Samuel Alemie, an immigrant from Ethiopia and a Chicago resident who is one of the college’s first 66 students.
“I think we can do better at helping people in our communities manage the medications they are taking,” said fellow student Diane Cluxton, a mother of four and former medical transcriptionist from Naperville, Ill. “It’s why I’ve chosen the field of pharmacy.”
Added Veronica Jimenez, a 23-year-old Spanish-speaking student from Chicago’s southwest side: “There aren’t a lot of Latinos in pharmacy. I’m hoping to work in retail so I can help those in my community gain a better understanding of their medications, what they do and how to use them.”
The College of Pharmacy, housed in a new state-of-the-art facility on the second floor of the Schaumburg Campus, opened in July. The college features a unique three-year, yearround curriculum based on competence, commitment and compassion.
“We’re starting out with a highly motivated group for the inaugural class,” said George MacKinnon, founding dean of the College of Pharmacy, who has paired each student with a pharmacist mentor who works in the pharmacy field.
“The establishment of a strong and lasting relationship provides a unique professional experience for both the pharmacists and our students,” said MacKinnon. “Students benefit by having someone outside the college to confide in and to share their thoughts and experiences with. Pharmacists who are acting as mentors benefit by offering advice and wisdom and having the opportunity to establish a lasting relationship with a PharmD student,” he said.
“In talking with those who are in the first class, my sense is that they are well-prepared, driven and focused in their decision to be here and on this path,” added MacKinnon.
Approximately 600 people from throughout the United States applied to become members of the college’s initial class.
The grade point average of those enrolled in the PharmD program is 3.3 on a scale of 4.0. Most have bachelor’s degrees and experience working in pharmacies, but some are adult career changers. In keeping with Roosevelt’s tradition of diversity, a little more than half of the students are women, more than a third are people of color and the age range is 20 to 51 years, with the average age being 25. Members come from 15 states and eight countries, including India, Vietnam, Korea, China, Poland, Romania, Cambodia and Thailand.
As College of Pharmacy faculty member Sonali Kurup, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, noted: “What is great about this program is that we have all kinds of students here. It’s not common in pharmacy colleges to have this kind of diversity, and it’s great to be a part of it.”
There are a number of important features at the College of Pharmacy that few programs offer. One is the chance to earn a degree in three years, instead of the typical four-year time frame. MacKinnon said the PharmD program at Roosevelt is similar to an executive MBA program in that it resonates well with students who want to progress at a non-traditional academic pace in order to realize the investment on their education sooner.
“Roosevelt’s program is unique. There is none like it in this area, and I like that I will be able to do my residency and postgraduate work a year earlier than in other programs,” said Sean Kennedy, 24, who lives in Plainfield, Ill., where he has worked as a pharmacy technician.
Another advantage of the curriculum is that it focuses heavily on field-practice experience, including requirements of 120 hours in year one, 320 hours in year two and 1,440 hours in year three, as well as 120 hours of practice in health fields outside of pharmacy.
“The whole point of an experiential program like this is to get a flavor for the different options the field can offer,” said Nancy Caddigan, the program’s oldest student and a resident of Dubuque, Iowa. She had a 4.0 grade point average as an undergraduate and was accepted by four different pharmacy schools. “I know this kind of program and its many field experiences will show me what makes the most sense for me,” she added.
Additionally, the Roosevelt program offers an interactive educational experience in which students in each incoming class take all courses together and are assigned to be part of a six-member group for the courses.
“I like the fact that I’m with the same group for three years,” said Tyler Davis, 22, who has spent his life in rural areas of Illinois and Iowa, and would like to return and practice pharmacy in his hometown of Sterling, Ill. “I like having close contact with the same people, and I’m expecting the program to strengthen my skills in working with teams.”
Team-based exercises are integral to the experience at the College of Pharmacy, which has no lecture halls seating hundreds of students. Instead, there is a single interactive learning center equipped with semi-circular tables that have seats for six as well as connections for Apple laptop computers that were provided to the students. Adjacent to the classroom is a contemporary clinical skills laboratory for mock patient exams, consultations, vaccinations, video-screen demonstrations, emergency room treatment and other simulation practice. The second phase of the facility, which will include an additional interactive learning center for next year’s incoming class, is under construction.
“All of the students who have chosen to come here – and we’ve had a waiting list – knew ahead of time that they were getting involved in an intimate learning experience,” said Bud Beatty, assistant dean for enrollment and student services for the College of Pharmacy.
“I think they’ve chosen this situation because they want to contribute to the success of the program. They see themselves as making a difference and being a part of something that’s new and innovative,” he said.
Making a difference in the lives of others, and to society as a whole, is a goal that unifies members of Roosevelt’s pharmacy class of 2014. “This is a class of students committed to Roosevelt University as an institution,” added Beatty. “They believe in the social justice mission, and they see how it connects with the field of pharmacy.”
Agata Siwak, a native of Poland who came to the United States in 2005 without knowing much English, is one of the students whose goal is to help others. “There is a large Polish population in Chicago, and many of my people do not speak English very well,” said Siwak, who had been working at a community health clinic scheduling appointments and translating for patients who are predominantly Polish speakers.
“They need someone to help them communicate about the medications they are taking and procedures they need to follow, and I want to be there as a pharmacist in my community to help them,” she said.
Iuliana Dumitresco, a Romanian immigrant who also spoke no English when she came to the United States nine years ago, has a dream of following in the footsteps of her uncle who was a pharmacist in her native land. “I used to be excited about how he was able to talk so easily with his patients, always giving them good and solid advice,” she said. “I loved how he tried so hard to help people, and I want to be like that.”
Following in the footsteps of a loved one is also a goal for Alemie, the Ethiopian student who first learned what it meant to come to the aid of one’s community from his grandfather, a traditional healer who picked herbs and mixed them into medications in his home city of Gander, which is located in the northern part of Ethiopia.
Alemie wanted to be part of the College of Pharmacy when he discovered the University’s history and tradition of social justice on Roosevelt’s website. He believes his life’s work is to become a pharmacist who can discover new drugs that can help others.
“My interest is to know more about medications and how to make drugs that can be useful to society,” said Alemie, whose mentor is faculty member Moji Christianah Adeyeye, chair and professor of biopharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy. In her homeland of Nigeria, Adeyeye has researched and conducted clinical trials of medications to fight the AIDS epidemic in women and children.
“She’s a great example for me,” said Alemie, “and I hope to help one day in a similar way.”
Indeed, the leaders and faculty of the College of Pharmacy are confident that they have designed a patient-centered curriculum that will prepare committed, competent and compassionate graduates in the inaugural class and well beyond to enter the practice and achieve dreams of serving the welfare of society in many, many ways.
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