Preparing Future Pharmacists

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy prepares students for their future careers. 


Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy Focuses on Patient-Centered Care

“Being part of an inaugural class, you have to have that pioneer spirit,” says Kelly Odegaard, a third-year pharmacy student. That’s how Odegaard feels about being one of 59 students who were welcomed as the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy’s inaugural class in August 2016.

“We were ready to take on that extra work and pave the way,” she says.

Since then, the second and third cohorts have brought enrollment up to nearly 200 students. And the faculty are making sure their students get hands-on experience in the laboratory, classroom and community.


Classroom Collaboration

Take Mimi Pham for instance. She’s a third-year student currently conducting research with Dr. Sally McMillin and Dr. Christy Sherrill. They are studying the newest class of medications approved to treat Type 2 diabetes. They’re investigating how these medications affect patients’ appetites, which may lead to further studies designed to improve the weight lowering effects of these drugs.

“When I started pharmacy school, I knew what I wanted to do,” says Pham. “But Drs. McMillin and Sherrill, they’re both from different sides of the industry, and they’re giving me an idea of what kind of pharmacist I want to be.”

Since Pham began her research with McMillin and Sherrill a year ago, she’s learned so much about the field.

“I like the chemical background, and I like to know how a medication works,” says Pham. “But along with the technical skills I need, faculty are also helping me build the soft skills to work with patients and counsel them to use the medication.”

Sherrill believes this is a prescription for success. This type of experience is particularly important for students pursuing additional training after graduation.

“This project has provided an opportunity to work with Mimi to supplement her didactic education and prepare her for her pharmacy career,” she says.

This close collaboration between faculty and students is also part of HPU’s culture.

“What sets our School of Pharmacy apart is the nature of our school,” says McMillin. “HPU is a smaller school, so the faculty have a stronger personal connection with the students and know them better. In that way, I feel like our students are more comfortable approaching us for a variety of things, whether it be related to the classroom, career advice, community involvement or research.”


A Pulmonary Clinic for the Community

HPU’s pharmacy faculty and students have also taken their research and knowledge out into the community at the Pulmonary Referral Clinic for patients in need inside the Community Clinic of High Point. The Pulmonary Referral Clinic was started by Dr. Peter Gal and two of his students, Odegaard and Chris Houpt, in 2017.

Patients with poorly controlled asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are referred to the pulmonary clinic to confirm their diagnosis and assess the severity of their disease. This process includes performing and interpreting lung function tests as well as designing individualized drug therapy regimens.

“It’s amazing how we can affect change in these patients’ lives, but it’s also a confidence-building experience,” says Odegaard.

“The students have become very popular with the patients, and they are so competent that they expanded services at the clinic by offering an additional pulmonary education service to reinforce patient’s proper use of medications,” says Gal.

This provides additional time to see new patients in the clinic.

“We make sure that patients know how to use their medications and that we can answer questions they have,” says Houpt. “We also provide a support system for them through smoking cessation.”

These students are able to improve the health of their community thanks to the guidance they receive from dedicated faculty.

“Faculty in the HPU Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy are highly motivated and care deeply about assuring a quality experience for all our pharmacy students,” says Gal.

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