They mix chemicals in a process called, “compounding.” They interact with a simulated human and learn something about medicinal chemistry, toxicology and intricate calculations. Despite the image that these activities might conjure up, they’re not aspiring wizards. They’re aspiring pharmacists!
More than 60 high school students from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, learned about patient diagnoses from SimMan, a human replica that can be programmed for an array of diseases and conditions. They grabbed mortar and pestle for lessons in compounding, customizing medications to meet a patient’s needs. For students interested in science and math, and possibly a career in health care, the week of June 25-29 spent at the UF College of Pharmacy was less like school and more like a vacation.
Orange High School seniors Nadia Mirfendereski and Noa Breitman, from northeastern Ohio, listened to iTunes while waiting for Ryan Schneider’s presentation on undergraduate research opportunities.
“I learned about this pharmacy camp from my school counselor,” said Mirfendereski. “It sounded interesting, so I told Noa about it. We came here together.”
Camp coordinators Suzanne Crouch and Cynthia Fitzpatrick knew it was important to keep a balance between information and fun for these high-achieving campers. After several years of planning the annual camp, they’ve gotten pretty good at it. Groups moved from participating in a computer exercise … blindfolded, to sessions on pharmaceutical calculations, drug evaluations and the timely topic of substance abuse.
“In the 20th century we treated disease. In the 21st century we treat patients,” said Alexander Vaglenov, Ph.D., in a presentation about undergraduate participation in cancer research. He defined the term “genotoxicity,” and asked the camper audience if drugs could affect DNA. Some took notes and some just thought.
“It’s been good learning more about the University of Findlay Campus and especially the College of Pharmacy Building,” added Michael Leonard, a Findlay High School senior. Leonard is seriously considering applying to a pharmacy program.
Tim Burkart and Tonya Dauterman, both Pharm.D’s, casually discussed some of their academic and clinical experiences with a roomful of campers.
“The most valuable thing you can do at this point is to shadow someone in the profession,” advised Dauterman. “If you apply to a pharmacy program, they will ask you what kind of experience you’ve had. Volunteering at a hospital and even this camp will give you that little extra edge.”
Many of the campers were surprised to learn the scope of a career in pharmacy. With the role of the pharmacist expanding, campers heard about working in hospitals, providing counseling to patients with chronic illnesses, doing wellness checks and giving injections, and even working in animal pharmaceuticals.
Three health-related organizations supported the camp through sponsorships. CVS, Baxter and Kroger helped enhance the camp experience for the future pharmacists and possible future employees.
On Thursday, June 29, campers attended a closing ceremony at 2 p.m. and several stayed for interviews with admissions counselors and pharmacy faculty. They were hoping that next year, they could be returning, not as campers, but as first year students.