Undergraduate college students spent time on campus this summer through the Undergraduate Pre-Health Program, or UPP. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion partners with Kaiser Permanente Health Plan of Colorado for the 13-month program. The program gives historically underrepresented students the opportunity to explore all types of health careers. They get direct access to faculty, deans and staff on the Anschutz Medical Campus and are able to work in research, both clinical and scientific, and shadow health care professionals.
Two UPP students spent their summer at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, “All the doctors, all the pharmacists, everyone, they’re so willing to take time out of their busy day and sit down and talk to you. They’ll explain their specialty, explain how it works, explain what they’re doing and they’ll step you through a process,” explains student Stephanie Gedney who went on to say, “it’s this mind opening thing that has happened this whole summer.” She was able to assist with research and shadow several pharmacists working in local clinics and at University Hospital.
Some students aren’t sure which area of health care they want to pursue and UPP can help them discover what they really want to do. For student Dewi Heinselman, she’s always been interested in pharmacy, “Growing up I always had a love for chemistry and I always wanted to help people, but I knew the physician route wasn’t right for me because surgery, blood, that’s not really my style, I didn’t really like that. One of my mentors was a pharmacist, and she kind of got me into the field, this summer I just decided to explore it a bit more.”
Along with shadowing pharmacists in clinics and at University Hospital, Heinselman worked in the labs at CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy, assisting with compounding, sodium bicarbonate testing for the hospital, and other research projects, “we’re actually working on pig ears to see the absorption levels of different types of topical creams,” she explains.
CU Pharmacy listens to the students, finds out where their interests lie and pairs them with the right preceptor, "I think a UPP student should follow a pharmacist to get a better idea if this really what they want to do? And it might open their eyes to something completely different they hadn’t thought about before," says CU Pharmacy Associate Professor Ben Chavez, PharmD, BCPP, BCACP.
Both Gedney and Heinselman got the chance to follow Dr. Chavez as he saw patients at The Salud Family Health Center in Commerce City, "What I do when the students are with me is we will go one on one with patients and we will go over their medications, go over how their blood sugar numbers are, and based on that adjust medications and order labs if we need to. I think pharmacists play a big role at a clinic like this because there’s no way that one provider can know everything they need to know, so here we really work as a team."
"You don’t realize how closely pharmacists have to interact with the physician, with everybody on their team. They're a crucial person in treating any patient," adds Gedney.
Research, clinical and patient care, the UPP students say they truly got a well rounded experience this summer, "There is so much more you can do in pharmacy. You can go work in clinical pharmacy, you can go work in a nuclear pharmacy. There’s so many opportunities, it’s not set in stone, you’re not going to get bored in pharmacy," says Heinselman.
UPP gives undergraduate students a chance to see things, which they may have just learned about in textbooks, in action. Click here for more on the Undergraduate Pre-Health Program.