Chapman Professors Explore the World of Pharmacy and Inspire NAC Students

Nearly 30 Nicholas Academic Centers’ students gathered for the return of the Chapman Visiting Scholars Series on Saturday, February 1, with a presentation from Dr. Lawrence Brown and Dr. Nancy Alvarez. The presentation, entitled “How to Excel in a World of Pharmacy You Never Knew Existed,” explored various roles that pharmacists play in the healthcare field, examined the academic requirements for earning a pharmacy degree, and considered the importance of preparation and the power of positive thinking.
To open the lecture, Dr. Brown asked students what they think of when they hear the word “pharmacist.” Most of the students’ answers were limited to CVS, Walgreens, and medical prescriptions. The scope of jobs that pharmacists actually perform surprised the students. Dr. Brown notes, “When you look at where pharmacists work, it’s actually in a lot more areas than most people think about.” In addition to chain, independent, and mass merchandise pharmacies, pharmacists also work in hospital pharmacies, doctor’s offices, health insurance companies, academia, and more. A 1998 analysis of URI alumni jobs reports “a Pharmacy degree can lead to about 180 different career choices.”
After sharing the diverse settings in which pharmacists work, Dr. Brown talked with students about the future of Pharmacy, a field expected to grow as an increasing number of people suffer from chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, and stroke. According to the organization, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, “nearly half the U.S. population will suffer from a chronic disease by 2030.” The current percentage stands between 47-48%.
Because of added healthcare coverage that accompanied the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which saw “7 million new coverage cards issued in California alone,” the demand for pharmacists will reach new heights. One slide credited to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, claimed “there are about 275,000 pharmacists in the U.S., and this number is expected to grow 25% to 345,000 by 2020.” Dr. Brown, however, expects more growth, stating that 345,000 “does not take into consideration the need for pharmacists to work in doctor’s offices to help manage medications, or in counter-care organizations or care transition organizations.”
To give students a better idea of what it takes to become a pharmacist, Dr. Brown discussed the academic requirements for entering a Pharmacy program. The average minimum college GPA is 3.0, with a 50 percentile on the PCAT, at least 65-70 pre-requisite credit hours, and a successful interview. While it’s unusual for students to begin a Pharmacy program directly out of high school, such opportunities do exist. Chapman University’s Freshman Early Admission Program is available for “highly qualified High School students.” In the program, students complete 2 years of pre-requisite courses and then 3 years of coursework at Chapman University’s School of Pharmacy. While pharmaceutical studies tend to attract students interested in math and science, Dr. Brown suggested that students look more into the field before they dismiss pharmacy as a potential career.
Immediately following Dr. Brown’s lecture, students and guests enjoyed a buffet-style lunch before Dr. Alvarez began the second half of the presentation. While she did focus in part on pharmacy, Dr. Alvarez also encouraged students to prepare themselves for success, whether in the field of pharmacy, or elsewhere. One way, she suggested, is to use failure to drive success: “It takes effort when things are not going your way, but it’s also important to take those failures and turn them into success.”
In addition, Dr. Alvarez suggested that students “seek to understand [themselves], prepare for opportunity, and weave a connection web.” Students were encouraged to volunteer, develop leadership skills in school clubs and other organizations, stay informed about the careers & programs they are interested in, and “grow an attitude of gratitude.” Dr. Alvarez insists, “Keeping an attitude of gratitude will help you keep a positive mindset. In whatever it is that you do, you can affect your outcome if you have a different frame of mind.” Dr. Brown echoed Dr. Alvarez’s sentiments: “Just take a second to think about all of the things that are going right when you’re worried about the things that are going wrong. It’s so important, in terms of your personal philosophy, to allow yourself to move on.”
Dr. Alvarez warned students to avoid “Maxwell’s Common Behaviors” in relation to failure, which include blaming others, repeating mistakes, expecting to never fail again or expecting to always fail, blindly accepting tradition, being limited to by past mistakes, thinking of oneself as a failure, and quitting. When NAC student Amber Rivero shared how she navigated her way through a number of transferred calls to a college admissions office to ask them to reconsider her application after it had been rejected, Dr. Alvarez commended her perseverance. The school agreed to reconsider Amber’s application, and smiling, Amber added, “There’s still hope!”
Before closing her presentation, Dr. Alvarez reminded students to pay attention to their interests and follow their passion, even if they have to be flexible in how they do it. “You’re preparing yourself every single day, in all that you’re doing, even if you’re not realizing it. You’re preparing yourself for whatever’s going to happen next. So, be prepared, have an idea of what you want, and give yourself the flexibility to change that.”
NAC student Cindy Ramirez, the Founder and President of the Children’s Cancer Club at the NAC, a group formed to raise money to help fund cancer research, found inspiration in Dr. Alvarez’s words. “The Chapman lecture today was very meaningful to me,” remarked Cindy, “because I learned that I have to be passionate about what I want to learn.” Cindy added, “You’ve got to contribute to the community and help people, and that’s what I want to do. I want to be passionate and help people, too, in the major I want to study.”
The next Chapman Visiting Scholars Series presentation is scheduled for Saturday, March 22, 2014, with Dr. Lori Cox Han.
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