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The Best Medicine

PharmacyGraduation1_opt1Marshall University School of Pharmacy graduates its inaugural class on to bright futures.

“Diverse.” “Driven.” “Builders.” These are just a few words used to describe the 76 students that make up Marshall University School of Pharmacy’s inaugural class.

“There are many unique features of the inaugural class,” said Dr. Kevin Yingling, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Their backgrounds, previous careers, life journeys were far broader than more recent classes, and I think this added to a more rich and engaging class.”

“They are pioneers in that they like to start things,” added Dr. Kimberly Broedel-Zaugg, professor and chair of pharmacy practice and administration.

Marshall University’s Board of Governors approved the pharmacy program in December 2009. After a $9 million renovation to the Robert W. Coon Education Building, located on the campus of the Huntington VA Medical Center, students were welcomed in August 2012. The School of Pharmacy was recommended for full accreditation this spring.

“This has been a wonderful journey for the university and the school to build a dynamic, exceptional pharmacy education program,” Yingling said. “These young men and women accepted an added risk of attending a yet-to-be-accredited pharmacy school. They recognized the incredible potential of this program and invested themselves in it in order to become a practice-ready pharmacist of the future.”

EvanJenkins RobertMcDo_optSamantha Vickers, who has degrees in chemistry from Marshall and The Ohio State University, and taught in Marshall’s chemistry department, was just one of the students who took a chance on the new program.

“I’ve been around Marshall a long time, and I’ve seen that when they put their minds to something they get it done,” she said. “I talked to people, and I felt confident that it was a good decision. I thought it was a great opportunity to get in, be the first class and help shape the pharmacy school.”

The pharmacy program is a “2+4,” meaning students can complete their undergraduate work in two years and pharmacy education in four. Each year, students learn one of the “4 Ds of pharmacy:” discovery, development, dissemination and delivery. The use of studio-style “flipped” classrooms, pharmacy practice, common areas and a curriculum that focuses on team-based and group learning help students become fully prepared for the next phase in their lives.

“The faculty have done an excellent job not only renovating the Coon Education Building to an active learning environment but also to create a competency-based pharmacy curriculum for practice-ready pharmacists of the future,” Yingling said. “My hope was for the students to be more fully prepared to complete their experiential education and be practice ready upon graduation, and I am very confident that they are well prepared.”

Outside of the classroom, Yingling is pleased with the school’s progress in the areas of research and community involvement.

KevinYingling JamesFra_opt“I am encouraged by the students’ and faculty’s participation in research, having received almost $2 million in grant funding for various projects and students being lead authors on scholarly articles in prominent pharmacy journals,” Yingling said. “I was also very optimistic about the students’ and the school’s engagement in improving health care in the community and the region, which has been done through activities such as the participation in harm reduction programs surrounding addiction, and that has exceeded my expectations.”

Broedel-Zaugg echoed that the students’ participation through drug take-back days and prevention programs, Senior Fest and other activities will have a positive impact on their futures.

“They not only have the foundations of pharmacy practice, but they have been building relationships through community service,” she said. “They’ve had the opportunity to care and interact with other people and professionals. They’re well prepared. I am confident that they are ready to face the world.”

Prior to graduation, a majority of the students had already received job offers.

“The practice of pharmacy is limitless,” Broedel-Zaugg said. “Most people think of community pharmacists, but these individuals are also community activists. There are positions available in medical centers, in the fields of nuclear pharmacy, infusion, public health, military, government … there’s so much more opportunity than just the local drug store.”

PharmacyGraduates 2016_optOthers, like Vickers, are going on to residency placements.

“You’re going to have your challenges — growing pains — being the first class, but it was a positive experience, and I think I’m well prepared,” she said. “My advice is to get as much as you can out of the situation. Make sure you’re doing what you need to get done to be successful.”

“Our catchphrase is ‘We are Marshall. We are the future of pharmacy education.’ For the future, I want to build upon the successes that the school has demonstrated in the areas of pharmacy education and scholarship,” Yingling said. “That is what we are. That is what we do.”

Dawn Nolan is a freelance writer living in Kentucky.

Photos: (Second from top) Veterans Administration Secretary Robert McDonald came to visit the School of Pharmacy in September of 2015. From left, Rep. Evan Jenkins, Samantha Vickers, McDonald, Delilah Navarro, Eric Slayton and Sen. Joe Manchin III. Vickers, Navarro and Slayton graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 2016. (Third from top) Dr. Kevin Yingling, dean of the School of Pharmacy, hoods graduating pharmacist James W. Frazier. (Below) Members of the first class to graduate from the Marshall University School of Pharmacy waiting for commencement.