Barbara Kelley , College of Pharmacy, 319-335-7301
Stand by me
Stand by me
Stand by me
Meeting the challenges of the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of Iowa can be daunting. Students must navigate course work, career decisions, and professional development while also trying to meet classmates and make friends.
The UI College of Pharmacy has adopted a practice to help: mentorship.
Every student accepted into the UI PharmD program is assigned three mentors—peer, faculty, and professional—to provide guidance, advice, and assistance from a real-world point of view. Older students, faculty, and alumni volunteer to be mentors, and matches are made randomly, except when a professional mentor can be located close to a student’s hometown, says Barbara Kelley, director of external relations who oversees the professional mentorship program at the UI College of Pharmacy.
“Mentorship helps students make connections,” Kelley says. “Pharmacy is a network-focused profession, and connections can make all the difference.”
The idea of mentorship in the College of Pharmacy came up 10 years ago after surveys revealed graduating students wanted more career counseling, says Vern Duba, an assistant professor and instructional services specialist.
In the beginning, students volunteered to have a faculty mentor, but eventually the program became more formal, and each incoming student was assigned a faculty mentor, says Duba, who coordinates the faculty mentoring program that is overseen by the Office of Academic Affairs.
Today, the program’s career counseling, professionalism, and academic success strategies have been developed in compliance with standards set by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. First-year pharmacy students are required to shadow two professional pharmacists, as well as their faculty mentor, and write about each experience. Faculty mentors review the reports and meet one-on-one with students to discuss their experiences and the field of pharmacy.
“We want to expose students early to a variety of professional experiences, rather than wait until their fourth year when they are out on rotations and discover a pharmacy career option they didn’t know existed,” Duba says.
During their third year, pharmacy students meet again with their faculty mentors to discuss their career goals and to prepare for their rotations in patient-care settings, known as Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences.
“These mentorship programs mirror the history of apprenticeship,” says Duba. “Students shadow faculty, working professionals, and peers during the first three years of the program.
“We provide the foundation to be confident early so students can work effectively as a member of a health care team during their final year of their program,” he adds.
Professional mentors are invited to take part in the White Coat Ceremony, a special event at the beginning of the fall semester that welcomes first-year students to the college and profession, says Kelley. Mentors ceremoniously cloak their mentees with their first white laboratory coats and agree to be a professional guide throughout the student’s four years in the College of Pharmacy.
Mentors donate to help cover the cost of their student’s white coat and membership in the Iowa Pharmacy Association. Professional mentors connect with students throughout their course of education, and students are encouraged to stay in touch with them, Kelley says.
“A professional mentor is a connection to an experienced practitioner who may serve as a reference for students and help find internships or shadowing opportunities,” she says.
In addition to being assigned a peer mentor, first-year students also are divided into Professional Outreach and Development Societies, or PODS, which are groups of students from each pharmacy class. That way, first-year students get to know older students, and the PODS often interact with faculty, staff, and practitioners during activities.
While the peer mentoring program was started to help first-year students acclimate to the demands of pharmacy school, some pairs develop deep friendships that last much longer.
Third-year PharmD student Claire Weidman, of Council Bluffs, and her mentee, Autumn Petersen, of Palatine, Illinois, who is a second-year student, say their pairing has been mutually beneficial. Both are avid runners and enrolled in the PharmD/Master of Public Health dual degree program with career aspirations in global public health with an emphasis in infectious diseases.
“Claire, honestly, is just a great role model in every sense of the word,” Petersen says. “She is really involved in many different parts of the College of Pharmacy, which is amazing. Seeing her succeed pushes me to want to be successful too.”
Weidman recently became President of the UI chapter of the American Pharmacists Association—Academy of Student Pharmacists for the 2016–17 academic year; her mentee, Petersen, is serving as the chapter’s president-elect.
Petersen says having an experience student to talk to about classes, careers, and college life has been invaluable. They often meet at the College of Pharmacy building to talk and study.
Weidman says she was equally inspired by her mentor, who is now in her final year of pharmacy school.
“She was really instrumental in getting me involved right away in pharmacy school,” Weidman says. “That really stuck with me.”