By Kate Thayer,TribLocal Reporter
Bill Huynh is a long way from his California home, but he happily moved to Schaumburg to fulfill his dream of becoming a pharmacist – and he’ll do it in just three years.
Huynh is one of 68 students who make up the inaugural class of the College of Pharmacy at Roosevelt University’s Schaumburg campus. The program is one of eight in the country that allow students to complete their PharmD degree in three years by attending class year-round, and the only school with that option in the Midwest.
The class attended orientation sessions this week to prepare for classes, scheduled to begin Thursday, in a newly-renovated portion of the university. Roosevelt has been planning to open the pharmacy college since 2009, and has completed one part of a two-part renovation at the Schaumburg campus to go along with the program.
(PHOTOS: Inaugural Roosevelt pharmacy students arrive.)
On Wednesday, Huynh – who knew no one in the area when he moved from Sacramento this summer – said he was already making friends.
Huynh, 21, is one of the youngest members of the class made up of 55 percent women and 45 percent men. They range in age from 20 to 51 and hail from 15 different states across the U.S., as well as seven other countries.
The program’s unique, fast-tracked structure, as well as its hands-on approach to learning skills, were just some of the factors that attracted students. Officials say more than 600 applied, and they’re already fielding applicants for next year.
For Huynh, it was the background of the faculty that helped him make his decision. He also said he wanted to experience a different part of the country. But, his classmate, Jipal Shah, 24, was drawn by the group setting of the program.
Students are divided into 12 groups of five or six for their classes. They work in these groups for the classroom portion of their education for the duration of the program.
George MacKinnon, founding dean of the program, said the dynamic is a way to learn how the health care setting often works and allows students to learn from each other.
“In health care, there’s not always a right or wrong answer,” he said. “Sometimes the fact that there’s a dialogue is the point.”
Shah has a unique perspective. He already earned a pharmacy degree in India before moving to the United States a few years ago. While living in New Jersey, Shah completed pre-requisite pharmacy courses and worked as a pharmacy technician before he chose Roosevelt University to obtain his U.S. degree.
He liked the idea of working with a group in class.
“Some people know more than you,” he said. “Like, I’m good at chemistry, but I’m not so good in physics. You can learn more with a group than if working by yourself.”
Besides working in the classroom or the lab with their groups, students will also role-play in an interactive classroom, designed to look like a hospital on one side, and several mini-pharmacies on the other.
These new digs were also an attractive feature to students, said Anthony Albiani, 29, of Westmont. After working as a pharmacy technician for six years at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Albiani said he wanted to earn his degree locally, and being a part of a small, inaugural class was attractive.
MacKinnon said part of the classroom is set up so students can role play interacting with patients because that’s the future of the industry. While people might not think of consulting with their pharmacist on a regular basis, a shortage of primary care physicians and other factors are shifting some of the characteristics of the stereotypical pharmacist.
A pharmacist won’t always be someone mixing medicine in the back of a store – or stand behind a counter, out of reach, he said. Patients could view their pharmacist like their dentist, visiting a couple times a year to keep tabs on medications.
“But, we’ve got to create the right environment” for that, MacKinnon said, and part of that is training future pharmacists to make it a priority.
“They’ll be the managers who can make patient care areas,” he said. “These students will graduate, and they’ll be the leaders.”
430 S. Michigan Ave.Chicago, IL 60605(312) 341-3500
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1400 N. Roosevelt Blvd.Schaumburg, IL 60173(847) 619-7300
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