A Look into Student Life at the USC School of Pharmacy

Jason Chen, PS I, provides a diabetes screening at USC School of Pharmacy table, as part of the 2011 USC CHIP Health Fair.

by Michelle Lam

Do you ever wonder what makes attending a health professional school so challenging?

According to first-year student at the USC School of Pharmacy Calvin Cha, it’s not just the academics that make graduate school difficult.

“Pharmacy school isn’t just about going to school then going home to study,” said Cha. “Our school is very rich in terms of student life and pushing for [students] to be innovative with our careers.”

Although pharmacy students only spend time in the classroom from eight to twelve noon Monday to Friday, the remainder of each day is spent attending organization meetings and events, working, or, for first-year students, going on rotations.

According to Cha, rotations, called Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPE), involve matching students to pharmacies for the purpose of gaining hands-on experience in the field. Each rotation lasts for three weeks per semester and places students in either a hospital or community pharmacy.

Said Cha, time management is a challenge for first-year students and free time isn’t easy to come by. However, life as a student pharmacist is the good kind of busy.

“Even though you’re busy, you kind of like it because you’re learning things for your profession,” Cha said. “You’re learning on the job, preparing for your future, and you get really close with your classmates.”

As a first-year student, Cha is involved in a variety of organizations on campus, such as the Korean American Pharmacy Student Association (KAPSA), a social club that promotes community and offers services such as health fairs in Koreatown.

Cha is also active in the Academy for Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), which raises awareness for the provision of cost-effective prescription drugs and healthcare to the public.

He serves on the AMCP leadership committee, which involves “planning for events, such as Kaiser Night and Building Bridges, where we invite employers that work in managed care and industry to network with students.”

According to Cha, engaging in social and professional organizations is important in order to build a network of peers and alumni who are professionals in the pharmacy field. In fact, his participation in Kaiser Night led to his current job as a pharmacy intern at a Kaiser Permanente outpatient pharmacy.

His intern duties include counseling patients on what medications to take, taking and filling prescriptions, and compounding drugs.

Pharmacy is a competitive profession, so “it’s upon [the students] to take initiative during networking opportunities,” Cha said.

“You will go through disappointment and rejection, but don’t dwell on your shortcomings—excel in what you can bring to the table.”

Cha has learned during his first year that he should not overwhelm himself by striving to be the best in everything he undertakes. He realizes that each student has different strengths in pharmacy.

“Some people are in the academic crowd and some like to be more involved in student organizations, while some are good at jobs and internships,” Cha said.
“Highlight your strengths as you go through pharmacy school.”

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