If I had the chance to travel back in time, I would pay a visit to August 2007: the time my slightly nerdy, teen self set foot on the University of Toledo campus for the first time.
I would wholeheartedly consider my college years some of the best years of my life. Nothing can quite compare to living in an almost fictional world surrounded by those who will become your friends for life, as you learn to become an expert in your profession of choice. I like to think I made the most out of my time in college, frequently uttering the phrase, “You often don’t regret the things you do, but regret the things you don’t jump at the chance to do.” Looking back, there are some opportunities I wish I would have “jumped at the chance to do” as a young student, and I hope to shed some light on some of those activities for current students.
First, partnering with a faculty member or preceptor on a research project as a student would have been beneficial going into residency, and would have offered a better understanding of how to interpret medical literature. With only a year to complete a residency research project, from creation to analyzing the data, having a foundation of how to accomplish this task would have been very helpful.
Many faculty members, especially those who are tenured, are continually working on research behind the scenes. Approaching a faculty member whose area of expertise interests you is a great way to get a research project started. With the demands of pharmacy school, completing a research project as a young student pharmacist, over months to years, might be ideal to help spread out the workload. As an alternative, some APPE rotations offer the opportunity to complete a research project as well, especially if you are doing a block rotation at one institution for a few months.
Second, while I did my best to stay active with various university organizations throughout my student pharmacist career, I wish that I would have gotten more involved at the regional and national levels. There are many leadership opportunities within APhA–ASP, and I encourage you to explore these options. This is a great way to make friends and connections from other schools of pharmacy.
It was after I graduated and started to become more involved with the APhA New Practitioner Network that I began to better learn the importance of networking with peers that did not attend the same university as I did. While I did attend a few regional and national APhA meetings as a student pharmacist, I often stayed within the safety net of my college comrades without branching out. Had I ventured out of my comfort zone, to engage with the other friendly faces at the meetings, I would have been able to gather and share ideas about ways to advance the profession of pharmacy and develop professionally as a student. Collaboration benefits everyone involved!
Moving forward, attend at least one regional or national APhA meeting to have a better vision of where the profession of pharmacy is headed and to start networking with peers. Being with numerous other pharmacists and student pharmacists who are as passionate about the profession as you are is inspiring.
I also encourage you to shadow several pharmacists in different practice areas to gain as much knowledge as possible about various specialties. One of the best aspects of being a pharmacist is the universal support for the advancement of every pharmacy practice area. Gathering ideas from current pharmacists will help develop the foundation needed to establish and grow a clinical service post- graduation.
Stay active in your APhA–ASP Chapter and participate in local patient care projects, Midyear Regional meetings, and APhA Annual Meetings. This is a great way to make the most out of your pharmacy school years. Before you know it, you will have “PharmD” after your name! But more importantly, you will be using the knowledge you learned to advance the profession.