First Pharmacy Students Become Difference Makers

HPU pharmacy

This story is featured in the Spring 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine, headed soon to a mailbox near you. Discover below how HPU’s inaugural pharmacy class is preparing to lead in a collaborative health care environment. 

Charity Amenya was still living in Raleigh when she drove to High Point, North Carolina, to volunteer with a group of High Point University pharmacy faculty. Together, they distributed thousands of dollars of over-the-counter medication to families who couldn’t otherwise afford it, and Amenya knew it then.

This was the university for her.

It was spring 2015, before she was an official member of the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy’s first class. She visited HPU previously to see if it was a good fit. She asked questions about the new curriculum faculty were building, and they told her it included a focus on innovation, interprofessional education and patient care.

The backdrop for that program included a campus designed to inspire and a colossal new 224,000-square-foot facility opening in the summer.

That day, as she worked alongside her future mentors to help others, she saw it all come together.

“I knew this would be an environment where I could really excel, and that caught my attention,” Amenya says. “I made up my mind that this was the place to be.”

Dr. Ronald Ragan

In August, Amenya became one of 60 students to receive their white coats, signaling the start of their academic career as HPU’s first pharmacy students.

The first class is filled with diverse students and experiences. Less than one year into their studies, they’ve learned that HPU’s program is grounded in rigorous academics, but it’s focused on people.

“As pharmacists, we go out into our community and we help people understand their medications and important aspects of their health,” says Dr. Ronald Ragan, founding dean of the school. “Our students are learning early that our product isn’t only the tablets in that vial.”


Pushing the Profession Forward

Amenya grew up in Ghana. Before coming to the United States as a teenager, she watched some of her family members serve as pharmacists in the African nation. But pharmacy is different there; there are no policies or communication between pharmacists and physicians. Often, pharmacies are independent stores that sell over-the-counter medication.

That’s what drew her to the HPU program — she wanted to learn from faculty who would prepare her to make a difference on a global scale.

In order to create impact, faculty know that students need an integrated approach to learning.

“Sometimes what we see in early pharmacy education is that students don’t understand why they have to know certain things,” says Dr. Mary Jayne Kennedy, chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences. “We teach through an integrated method so that at the same time students are learning principles in the classroom, we invite a clinician or simulate an experience that shows them a very real example of how that principle will be applied.”

Amani Cobert, right, was one of 60 inaugural pharmacy students who received their white coats at the ceremony last fall

That approach showed Amani Cobert, a Virginia native, that HPU’s program was unique.

“I looked at top programs in the country, and I knew HPU designed an upper echelon program,” says Cobert. “Just three months after we became students, we were certified to provide immunizations in the community. That doesn’t happen in most programs until the third year, but we’re already doing that sort of work.”

Most programs focus on working directly with patients in the latter years. HPU faculty knew there was a better way.

“We teach them soft skills — how to have conversations, ask difficult questions and communicate with both patients and other physicians,” Kennedy says. “We’re preparing students to push the profession forward, and that means identifying what the need is and creating solutions.”


Rooted in Values

The faces of pharmacy students represent many goals, dreams and leaders who are eager to be challenged.

There’s Kelly Odegaard, who moved from Arizona with her husband and two children to HPU to become a community pharmacist.

And Brady Johnson, a pre-pharmacy student who will apply to join the doctoral program because he wanted to attend a university based on values like generosity, kindness, faith and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Values may not sound scientific, but they keep you grounded in a constantly changing world, according to Kennedy.

“I never strayed from the core skills, but I always tried to figure out, how can I apply something that makes a difference? Where can I have the most impact?” says Kennedy. “There are no written rules for that.”

Johnson saw that when he applied and was accepted as an undergraduate.

“HPU represents the values I was taught as a child,” Johnson says. “There is nothing better than attending a college that wraps you in the same love and care as your home.”

The dedication, the depth of the curriculum and the shifting sands of health care – “it’s all challenging,” Cobert admits, but so is serving as a full-time health care provider.

The perspective they’ll take into health care and the people they’ll help — that makes it worth the commitment. 

A Snapshot of the Congdon School of Health Sciences & Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy


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