The USC School of Pharmacy pioneered experiential learning for Doctor of Pharmacy students in the late 1960s and today remains an innovator in preparing students for pharmacy practice in a wide variety of settings.
Patient care experiences begin early, increasing in scope and complexity as students progress through the program. By the time they finish the PharmD program, students will have completed a minimum of 1,740 hours of experiential learning.
Students benefit from the School’s broad network of affiliates—some 300 sites with more than 400 volunteer faculty and preceptors, many of whom are alumni of the program. Students are provided many options for clinical site placements and are not required to relocate out of the Los Angeles area to complete the program.
The School’s location in Los Angeles provides far-ranging opportunities for practice in a variety of settings, with a wide range of disease states in an incredibly diverse patient population. Being on a major health sciences campus—the only private school of pharmacy in such a setting—offers students many other advantages, including four hospitals in close proximity (three of which are owned by the university) as well as opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. In addition, the School of Pharmacy owns and operates four community pharmacies that serve as practice sites for students.
Years 1-3: Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPEs)
During the first three weeks of the curriculum, students receive intensive, hands-on training in immunization and screening tests for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Skills are further honed through frequent participation in local health fairs–one is held nearly every week throughout the year. At health fairs, students provide vaccinations, conduct a variety of health screenings and offer community health education under the supervision of faculty and alumni preceptors.
Then, continuing throughout the first three years of the PharmD program, each student completes approximately 300 hours of experiential learning. Years 1 and 2 include experiences in the community and hospital pharmacy settings. During the third year, students choose electives that further broaden their knowledge in an area of special relevance to their chosen career path.
Classroom instruction during the first three years is time designed to complement and enhance the experiences gained at the various practice sites, contributing to the overall professional development of the student.
Year 4: Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs)
The fourth year in the program is entirely experiential, with students completing six advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPE) of six weeks each. Students have flexibility in scheduling their rotations, as eight different six-week blocks are available to choose from—two in the summer, and three in each semester during the regular academic year.
Two of the six rotations will be in an ambulatory or outpatient environment and two will be in an inpatient or hospital setting. Each student will be required to take two electives that may be in a variety of settings—including the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory agencies, or managed care organizations.
The required acute-care or inpatient rotations are balanced to include both team-based clinical care and the systems of practice for the hospital setting. Students will participate in everything from preparing and dispensing medications, interprofessional rounds and monitoring of therapy to quality assurance and program development. The ambulatory rotations emphasize individualized patient care and disease state management and systems of care in the community pharmacy setting.
While specific placements cannot be guaranteed, students are offered a significant amount of choice in rotations based on their individual interests and preferences, with opportunities for placement at a wide range of locations, such as:
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Corporate and industry settings
- LAC+USC Medical Center
- University of Southern California hospitals (Keck Hospital of USC, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital)
- Other Southern California health systems, such as the Veterans Administration Medical Centers, Kaiser Permanente and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
- Private physician offices and clinics
- International sites (including Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, Denmark)