July 5, 2016 | Learning how to take a blood pressure reading by practicing on a manikin that reacts like a human or getting hands-on experience and instruction compounding medicine aren’t common experiences at a summer camp.
For the last ten years though, that’s been the idea behind the Pharmacy Camp at the UAMS College of Pharmacy, creating uncommon experiences for 17- and 18-year-olds during one week in June.
The week of pharmacy camp shatters the common misconception that pharmacy is about performing routine procedures free of any creativity or challenges.
“When I tell people I’m interested in pharmacy, they say, ‘Oh, you want to sit behind a counter and count pills all day,’” said William Perreault of Little Rock, a recent graduate of Catholic High School for Boys. “This week exposed me to knowledge about all the different kinds of pharmacy there are, how many career options there are, like clinical pharmacy and hospital pharmacy. It’s such a great field.”
Perreault was one of 35 students who attended the UAMS College of Pharmacy’s 10th annual summer Pharmacy Camp. During the week, they were able to participate in a compounding laboratory making medications, try out procedures with animatronic patient manikins in the UAMS Centers for Simulation Education and hear from a series of lecturers about the crucial roles pharmacists play in treating chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension.
Camp participants stay in campus housing. More than a dozen faculty and staff of the college help with instruction, and another dozen or more pharmacy student volunteers serve as guides and mentors.
Perreault will attend the University of Georgia in the fall, majoring in biology, but Story Hart has one year at Southside High School in Fort Smith before she goes on to college. Her experience of Pharmacy Camp was just as enlightening.
“I loved having the opportunity to talk about our passions, what we like and the ability to do our own thing within the same field,” Hart said. “I could be a pharmacist and have a completely different job from someone else. You really can personalize it.”
Along with field trips to local pharmacies, camp participants also learn about research, professional conduct and ethics, interviewing and communication skills and how to prepare for pharmacy school.
“I know that some students were already interested in clinical or retail pharmacy before they came to the camp,” said Alex Holladay, the college’s recruiting specialist who is director of the camp. “Other students were looking more at medicine but wanted to know what pharmacy had to offer. Now they’re seriously thinking of pharmacy as an option. Those students are able to see all the different options from clinical pharmacy to nuclear pharmacy to pediatrics or transplant pharmacy, just to name a few.”
Third-year pharmacy student Sarah Bishop volunteered as a panelist for a question-and-answer session with some of the participants.
“With an open panel, you can never know what you will be asked. I guess I was surprised how much the students were thinking ahead and how inquisitive they are,” Bishop said. “When I was in their shoes, I felt like I just had one question: Do I want to do pharmacy or go to med school? They have twenty. Definitely UAMS is getting them to think about these things that I never thought about before coming here.”