Each year, Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students benefit from the USC School of Pharmacy’s broad network of affiliates — some 300 sites with more than 400 volunteer faculty and preceptors, many of whom are alumni of the program.
The school’s annual Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) Fair, held at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel on December 1, 2017, gave third-year PharmD students an opportunity to meet with preceptors first hand and learn about various available APPEs.
The PharmD program’s fourth year is entirely experiential, with students completing six, six-week APPEs. 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. APPEs help students develop the competencies essential to the pharmacist’s expanding role as a health care provider — and are a vital rite of passage.
Ying Wang, interim associate director of Professional Experience Programs, notes the APPE Fair is an “exciting moment” for PharmD students because it signifies the initial planning stages for their final year of pharmacy school. “The fair allows students to learn about what experiences are available for them and align their career interests when making their rotation selections,” Wang says. “It is also a great opportunity for students to network and connect with preceptors who often become their mentors throughout their career.”
The 2017 APPE Fair convened preceptors from a wide range of locations across Los Angeles, including Kaiser Permanente, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai, L.A. Care Health Plan, LAC+USC Medical Center, Los Angeles LGBT Center, CVS, Walgreens, and USC sites such as USC Pharmacies and Keck Medical Center.
At the fair, alumnus and CEO of 986 Pharmacy, Ken Thai, PharmD ’02, presented opportunities from 15 sites under his ownership and affiliation. “USC has traditionally been a great feeder school for us,” Thai says. “It’s always a mutually beneficial relationship for students as well as for us.” In addition to an ever-popular administration rotation at 986 Pharmacy, Thai and fellow preceptors offered information about opportunities in compounding, medication therapy management and community pharmacy.
To gain a comprehensive understanding of different practice environments, students are required to pick APPEs in acute care, primary care, community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy practice in addition to any of their own specific interests. For third-year student, Lena Haddad, whose interests lie in emergency medicine, ambulatory care and pediatrics, the APPE Fair was an opportunity to “talk to preceptors and fourth-year students who are at the APPE sites right now” and learn as much as possible about the rotations she will be on in a few months. Haddad found that speaking with preceptors generated interest in rotations she previously hadn’t considered, such as a pediatric rotation at the Keck School of Medicine with Irving Steinberg, PharmD, associate professor of Clinical Pharmacy and Pediatrics.
The USC School of Pharmacy pioneered experiential learning for PharmD students in the late 1960s and today remains an innovator in preparing students for pharmacy practice in a wide variety of settings.
During the first three years of the PharmD program, each student completes approximately 300 hours of experiential learning. Years one and two 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. By the time they finish the PharmD program, students have completed a minimum of 1,740 hours of experiential learning.
In addition to required APPEs, students are encouraged to explore rotations available in nuclear pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry, nontraditional pharmacies and even international pharmacies through international affiliations in Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea and Denmark.