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College of Pharmacy on front line in fight against flu epidemic

Posted: 06/05/2013

While spring is finally here, students in Roosevelt University’s College of Pharmacy won’t forget the passing flu season anytime soon.

Sickening hundreds of thousands and sending record numbers of people to hospitals, this year’s epidemic was fought on many fronts in the Chicago area by Illinois pharmacists and Roosevelt pharmacy students.

“While pharmacists have been immunizing for the last 10 years, there’s been this slow build in public interest in going to a pharmacy rather than a doctor’s office for the flu shot,” said Cara Brock, director of professional labs and a College of Pharmacy instructor who trains Roosevelt PharmD students during a 20-hour seminar for certification by the American Pharmacists Association to give immunizations, including flu shots.

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In 2011, the College trained 66 students from the inaugural PharmD class of 2014 how to administer vaccinations for flu, hepatitis, pneumonia and other illnesses. A second group of more than 70 students from the College’s class of 2015 received training and certification in February.

“There’s an expectation today that all of our students, as well as pharmacists in general, will be certified and able to give vaccinations,” said Brock.

Among students who have seen action on the front line in fighting spread of the flu vaccination is Emily Swayka, a member of the College of Pharmacy’s first class and the winner of a prestigious, competitive scholarship from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).

“It’s been a great experience and one in which I've really felt like I'm helping people,” said Swayka, a Roosevelt PharmD candidate and certified pharmacy technician who has given more than 50 flu shots at CVS/Pharmacy in Glendale Heights, IL.

A recent winner of the NACDS Foundation’s Leonard J. DeMino Pharmacy Student Scholarship, Swayka, of Westmont, IL., also has created flu-awareness flyers and has advised members of the public, particularly those over 65 years of age, about the importance of getting a flu shot.

PharmD candidate Thuy Tran of Schaumburg, who also received immunization training and certification a little over a year ago at the College of Pharmacy, said the experience enabled her to help hundreds in the region’s suburbs to avoid the scourge of the flu this season.

“The experience has helped me to practice for my future,” said Tran, who has given as many as 20 flu shots daily as a certified technician at CVS/ Pharmacy in Highland Park and as a volunteer for a flu clinic held last fall at river Casino in Des Plaines. “it has helped me learn to communicate, which is an important part of being a pharmacist today,” Tran said.