Pharmacy: The Pharmacy Profession

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Pharmacy: The Pharmacy Profession




Guest:  Dr. Joe DiPiro – College of Pharmacy/Dean’s Office, MUSC

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. Joe DiPiro is Executive Dean of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy.  Dr. DiPiro, in this podcast, let’s talk to the young person out there who has decided that he, or she, would like a career in pharmacy.  There are many different schools to choose from.  I’m sure it can be pretty overwhelming and confusing. If you were advising a young student about what to look for in a program, what are some of the things you might say?


Dr. Joe DiPiro:  People think about pharmacy, that it’s a great profession to get into.  Sometimes, they see pharmacists in just one environment.  It may be in a community pharmacy, or a hospital, and they think they know what pharmacy is about.  And they’re surprised, when they come here to pharmacy school, to find out that there are probably 50 different kinds of jobs that you could have as a pharmacist.  It ranges from the typical ones that you do see in, say, a community pharmacy to pharmacists who are very technology oriented, and computer oriented, to those who are involved in the business of pharmacy, and many other different types of specialties, for example, nuclear pharmacy.


Well, I often have students who come to me, or contact me, saying that they’re interested in pharmacy:  Can they learn more about it?  What about the South Carolina College of Pharmacy?  What I advise students to look for a program is that it has an affiliation with an academic medical center.  And that’s important for a few reasons.  One is that the academic medical center really has the wide range of experts who can have a lot of influence on a pharmacy degree program; in medicine, and nursing. 


I think the opportunity to have interproffessional training is recognized, now, to be important.  Pharmacists need to train along with medical students, and students from other disciplines.  It’s important to have the opportunity to be at an institution that does research; that advances the field of healthcare.  And students can participate in that, and be a part of the research that happens in healthcare.  I also think it’s important to be at an institution where there are important disciplines like public health, and even a school of business.  Now, we have that on our USC campus; a very good school of public health, and a very good school of business.  So, the courses and degrees that are offered there can be to the advantage of pharmacy students in our program as well.


And then there’s another aspect of it, and that’s postgraduate training.  Here, at MUSC, we have a residency program that’s one of the largest in the country, and has been in existence, now, for 50 years.  So, many students who finish our program go on to residencies after graduation.  And to have a program like that here is really an advantage to our students; not only those who are going into residencies, but they get to work with residents as a part of their training.  So, there are a lot of advantages to being in pharmacy school in an institution that’s an academic medical center and that has other important disciplines and health professions as well.  It just adds a lot to the overall training of a pharmacist.


Dr. Linda Austin:  You know, it occurs to me in hearing you talk about that so eloquently, and even passionately, that when you’re a young person in college, you tend to think about how you’re going to support yourself for the next decade, let’s say, or when you get out of college; and even thinking about something like a health professions school, such as a college of pharmacy, can feel pretty big and even a little intimidating.  The reality is, though, as you go through your career, when you’re 30 years into it; like you are, or I am, one of the big challenges is how you stay alive and growing over the course of 30 years:  How do you get beyond your 20s and really have a professional life that’s vital and exciting?  What I read into what you’re saying is that it really starts with that platform of education that you start building with that first choice of where you go to school.  That platform has to be strong enough, and broad enough, and deep enough that it can sustain you and inspire you, and motivate you, and prepare you for a lifetime of growth in your field.


Dr. Joe DiPiro:  I think that’s right.  The platform is very important.  But one of the things about the platform that we stress to our students is becoming life-long learners.  In a relatively short period of time that, even in the best pharmacy program, the information you learn becomes irrelevant.  I’m afraid to say how little that I learned 30 years ago is still relevant to pharmacy; very little.  When students graduate as pharmacists, they have to be prepared to continue their education; even if it’s not formal education, as in a degree program. 


We do have mandatory continuing education, but that’s sort of a minimal requirement.  It’s very important for practitioners, when they get out there, to count on achieving other types of certifications, like disease management certifications, board certification.  There are a number of examples of programs that pharmacists can use to expand their knowledge to keep up with the state of the art.  So, that’s important to do.


One of the things that we like to encourage our students to do is remain active in their pharmacy associations; the state association and the national associations, because these organizations are very good at providing state of the art continuing education.  You get to meet with the people who are there at the forefront doing the best work and learn from them.  So, I think it’s a combination of things; having the motivation and the desire to continue to learn as one progresses through their career, and then staying connected with the organizations, not only for the knowledge of pharmacy, but for political advocacy; advocating for the best types of healthcare.  All of that is important.  And we really stress to our students to be thinking about the day after they graduate, and to continue their learning.


Dr. Linda Austin:  Dr. DiPiro, thanks so much for talking with me today.  This is such an exciting new college here, in South Carolina.  I wish you the best of luck.


Dr. Joe DiPiro:  Thank you.  I really appreciate this opportunity.

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