By Deanna Tran, PharmD, BCACP
As an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, I recently had an opportunity to participate in a faculty exchange program through the Pharmacy Practice Mariner Project. Named for NASA’s Mariner program – which launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes to investigate Mars, Venus, and Mercury – the Pharmacy Practice Mariner Project engages early career clinical faculty in a personal exploration of academic roles, responsibilities, policies, and practices through a series of expeditions across a cohort of peer institutions.
Broadening my horizons
When I first learned about the program, I knew it was an excellent opportunity to gain new insights into another institution’s teaching methods and curriculum – insights that I might be able to bring back to our pharmacy practice laboratory group as well as the self-care and nonprescription pharmacotherapy course. After submitting my application, I was matched to travel in June to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, where I met with faculty and leadership in its Department of Pharmacy Practice and learned more about how the school is preparing its student pharmacists to meet patients’ needs in today’s dynamic health care arena.
During my visit, I toured the school’s campus in Oxford, where first- and second-year student pharmacists take classes. I met with a number of faculty members, including those who taught in the skills lab and over-the-counter course, as well as some who practiced in ambulatory care. I also visited the campus in Jackson, where third-year student pharmacists complete their didactic courses and rotations, and spoke with other faculty members, including Kim Adcock, PharmD, professor and director of faculty and academic affairs; Katie S. McClendon, PharmD, clinical associate professor and assistant dean for student services; and Meagan A. Brown, PharmD, clinical associate professor and coordinator for community pharmacy development.
Gaining a new perspective
In my discussions with the faculty, I discovered problem-based learning is a key teaching strategy for students in the third year of Mississippi’s Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. I enjoyed learning about this flipped-classroom teaching method, which centers on the learner in an effort to empower students to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop solutions and recommendations for a specific problem or case. It was great to see the way the faculty implemented this method in the classroom and how it helps students become independent learners who use critical thinking and communication skills to solve problems in a clinical setting.
My interactions with faculty gave me a chance to bounce ideas off of like-minded individuals, understanding that our institutions often encounter similar challenges in our efforts to advance pharmacy education and the profession. I learned that faculty at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy are working to implement a new curriculum that has some similarities to our school’s curriculum. It is my hope that the experiences I shared will help them as they move forward in that process. Before my visit ended, I delivered a seminar titled “‘SPEC-tacular Change: Self-Care and Nonprescription Pharmacotherapy,” which highlighted the new self-care course offered to our students.
Although my trip was brief, the information I learned will be invaluable in honing my teaching methods and advancing my professional growth. My sincere thanks to Jill A. Morgan, PharmD, BCPS, BCPPS, associate professor and chair of PPS, and the faculty at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy for allowing me the opportunity to visit, learn, and share experiences that I know will help shape our outlook as educators and practitioners.