Students from the ISU / UAA Pharmacy Program discuss the impact of Alaska’s first pharmacy program and what it means to know and work in rural communities.
Idaho State University (ISU) and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) partnered to offer Alaska’s first Ph.D. in pharmacy, helping prepare students not only for careers in pharmacy, but also careers that fulfill disadvantaged rural populations.
“We are a satellite campus of the Idaho State University College of Pharmacy,” said Liv Swonger, a third-year student at UAA, in an interview with Pharmacy careers®. “It’s a fairly new program, with brick and mortar structures on the campus of the University of Alaska at Anchorage.”
According to the UAA website, the dual campus curriculum covers the history of pharmacy education, rural health, and multisite delivery. There are also several lessons on diversity and inclusion which, according to Swonger, are designed to teach students to advocate for patients and navigate pharmacies in more rural areas.
“In our special populations module, we had guest lecturers… let’s discuss [the] Alaskan natives, who make up the majority of the population, “Swinger said. These modules highlighted the value of clinical experience” and how … treatments within the population may not always reflect [a] typical course of treatment or what you might find in the literature. Understanding the differences in [styles of] the cure, she said, would help her provide better treatments for these communities in the future.
Said Jessica Goodman, a first-year pharmacy student on the same campus Pharmacy careers® that studying in a non-urban area had made her realize the need for more health workers in those communities. Especially as a trainee pharmacist, Goodman said he can see the needs within disadvantaged populations.
“Going to pharmacy school, I was really looking forward to it [helping disadvantaged patients]Goodman said. “It was really great to be able to help people who really need it.”
He said the university’s Office of Experiential Education has numerous rural and urban options available, which allow students to learn about different communities and provide students with a more well-rounded experience overall.
“We also do a lot of awareness events that can go to rural areas, like vaccination clinics …[and] selection[s] for diabetes and heart problems, “Goodman said.” I’m part of our substance use disorder and over-the-counter drug organizations.
Even though Anchorage is a large city, Goodman noted that it’s only about an hour’s drive from rural areas, so making outreach programs is easy.
Being the first of its kind in the state, the ISU / UAA program is an extraordinary milestone and means that college students don’t have to leave the house to study pharmacy. He pointed out that other schools have more competition than the UAA, as its pharmacy program is unique.
“There are a lot of opportunities just because there are so many of us students,” Goodman pointed out. “This allows us … to go out and do a lot of things [students] elsewhere it cannot do “.
Swinger agreed, saying that with only about 40 students, the program allows members to build stronger relationships with each other. “Entering the program … I really relied on the experiences of my upper-class students to help me navigate the pharmacy school and get my doctorate,” she said, adding that it was nice to be able to pay onward as she progressed through the program.
Taking a broader perspective, Swonger said that not only are the connections between students stronger, but also those between the school, the Alaska Pharmacist Association, and the profession at large.
“I feel I have contributed to this … through community outreach, but in addition, when I have traveled in my rotations, I have been extremely lucky and very grateful …[for] pharmacists … who offered me accommodation, shared their lifestyles … and integrated me socially within the community “.