Called to the Pharmacy Profession
A new class of Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) School of Pharmacy received their white coats in a traditional ceremony, Sept. 20, 2019, marking the beginning of their clinical education. The Class of 2022 celebrated the successful completion of the first session of their education at the MCW School of Pharmacy, which began in July, and looks forward to embarking on the rest of their educational journey as pharmacy students.
“Starting my PharmD education has been rewarding because I’ve worked so hard to get here. For me, it’s very emotional. My hard work is paying off,” says first-year student Jackson Straughan.
“This event represents the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, sacrifices, and enthusiasm for the students that pursue their PharmD degree at the MCW School of Pharmacy,” says George E. MacKinnon III, PhD, MS, RPh, FASHP, Founding Dean and Professor of the MCW School of Pharmacy.
The white coat that students receive represents the knowledge and professionalism held by health practitioners, including the pharmacy profession. “The white coat symbolizes someone you can trust and turn to. I feel the white coat really embodies those values of being a dependable source of patient care,” says Straughan.
“The White Coat Ceremony is the beginning of the journey of becoming a pharmacist and healthcare professional,” says first-year student Jose Roig. “Some schools hold theirs before starting classes but for us, you have to pass your first session. It’s the day where I can say I’m capable of doing this.”
For Roig and his classmates, the ceremony also holds more personal meanings. “I have a Hispanic background and the language barrier was a concern before coming here. Getting to the ceremony means that I overcame those fears and having the white coat is the symbol of all of the small goals I have achieved,” he says.
“I’m the first person in my family to go to college, so it’s exciting for me to be blessed for this opportunity,” says another student receiving her white coat, Hayley McDaniel.
The keynote speaker, Peter H. Vlasses, PharmD, DSc (Hon), FCCP, Executive Director Emeritus of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, spoke about the profession of pharmacy’s past, present, and near future. “If you see yourself as called to do this, called to be a pharmacist, called to help others – that is where your ultimate satisfaction is going to come from,” he says.
“I wanted to be a pharmacist because of my love for chemistry and because I also really wanted to help others be educated about how drugs are beneficial but can be harmful in certain situations,” says McDaniel. “The way that the world is changing, pharmacists are going to be able to provide more to the community.”
The White Coat Ceremony also gives students a moment to reflect upon their first block of pharmacy classes. First-year students at the MCW School of Pharmacy attend a number of lecture-based and lab-based courses, such as Pharmaceutical Drug Delivery and Patient Care Lab.
“Biochemistry was my favorite class because I really enjoy organic chemistry and the professor took time to make sure everyone understood. He didn’t just read off of a slide. I would say this school has some of the best professors and extra help that I’ve experienced,” says McDaniel.
“I personally really enjoyed Patient Care Lab. Learning all of the health services like vitals and medication histories has been great for me as a hands-on learner,” says Straughan. “I chose the MCW School of Pharmacy because the accelerated, patient-focused, and interprofessional-focused curriculum caught my eye in terms of the pharmacist that I want to be in the future.”
After being coated by their faculty advisors, students assembled to take the Oath of a Pharmacist, which was led by Sarah E. Sorum, Interim CEO of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. PharmD students pledged themselves to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy.
The MCW School of Pharmacy prepares its students for the evolving role of the pharmacist. Students that graduate from the PharmD program at the MCW School of Pharmacy are able to provide an expanded set of services to patients beyond dispensing medications. They learn to provide primary patient care services such as medication management, vaccine administration, point-of-care testing, such as flu tests, and medical device education. Graduates can work in a variety of different specialties and are prepared to work as part of the interdisciplinary healthcare team.
“I want to be a pharmacist because it takes my love for science and incorporates it with helping others,” says Straughan. “I feel that getting our white coats is really going to encourage us to become the best pharmacists we can.”