Alumna earning PharmD through distance program

Pharmacist Marilyn Myers saw the writing on the wall.

“I could see,” Myers explains, “a movement within the profession itself towards the PharmD degree as being an entry level requirement. Even within my company, there was a growing interest in the pharmacist’s degree status. They were transitioning over to a new standard, and I realized that this was the time for me to rejuvenate my career.”

Myers graduated from the University of Arizona in 1978 with a BS in pharmacy and has been working as a pharmacist ever since. But a few years ago she decided to get a PharmD degree. The UA College of Pharmacy didn’t have a working professionals program, so a COP faculty member referred her to the University of Florida. In 2009, while working in Tucson, she enrolled in the University of Florida’s distance learning PharmD program for working professionals.

The working professional program offered by UF is a three-year commitment that includes nine semesters: Foundations of Pharmaceutical Care, Circulatory Disorders, Cardiac Disorders, Renal Disorders, Endocrine – Hematologic and Women’s Health Disorders, Respiratory Disorders, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Protective and Structural System Disorders, Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders. Currently, there are 500 students in the program.

Applicants must already have a BS in pharmacy from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or an equivalent from an international institution. In addition to completing coursework, students must attend regional or remote classroom sessions. There are three regional sessions per semester. Remote sessions are once a semester, for an entire weekend. Myers attends a remote session in Las Vegas.  

The distance program does require extra effort from the students.

“The onus,” Myers explains, “is on the student to find a preceptor. In my case it was easy since Nicole Scovis is a graduate of the University of Florida’s pharmacy program and had previously been a preceptor for another student in the distance program. She’s great. She taught me some things that I wasn’t getting in the didactic portion of the program.”

Scovis works in the COP Medication Management Center and is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science. 

“It is a very unique program,” says Scovis. “The way the PharmD program works in the UA College of Pharmacy is that the students do rotations to get experience. However, the working professionals program is set up as discrete competencies. For example, I may teach a range of things to fourth-year COP students and after six weeks they rotate out, but in the distance program there are specific competencies that must be mastered by students before they move on.”

These “discrete competencies” are also known as clinical practice assessments where the students demonstrate new knowledge/skills in practice. Students in the program must complete 12 clinical practice assessments per year performed under the guidance of a preceptor. The activities range from interviewing patients to accompanying physicians on their rounds and providing analysis and recommendations on patient medications.

Myers has now completed all 36 clinical assessments and is planning to walk with the rest of the 2012 PharmD graduates at the August graduation ceremony in Gainesville, Fla.

“The pharmacy profession has changed a lot since I received my first degree,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot of new things in this program. When I finish, I would like to make the move from retail into some sort of clinical practice.”

Story and photo by Larry Hogan Jr.

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