Let’s get a few things clear about a PharmD. It’s a doctoral degree in pharmacy, and since 2000 it has been required of all new practitioners. Many PharmDs do practice in clinical or community settings, such as a neighborhood pharmacy, hospital, or care clinic, but others also research or work in industry or academia.
For Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CU Pharmacy) student Tamanna Talwar, the call to academia kickstarted her PharmD journey.
Now a P3, Talwar and mentor, Assistant Professor Sara Wettergreen, PharmD, have been selected as one of the first student-faculty pairs in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)’s Aspiring Academics Program. New in 2023, the Aspiring Academics Program is “designed to inform and inspire students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in pursuing an academic pharmacy career.” The program accepted only twenty student-faculty pairs from a nationwide pool of applicants.
A Chance Meeting
Talwar, left, and Wettergreen at the Rho Chi induction ceremony.
The two met before Talwar was a student at CU Pharmacy. Like many faculty members, Wettergreen also has a practice site. At the time, she was working with the DAWN Clinic, a student-run (but overseen by licensed care providers) interprofessional community health center on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. DAWN serves the Aurora community and services are free.
Years ago, while volunteering at the DAWN Clinic, Talwar let Wettergreen know that she was recently accepted to pharmacy school at CU.
“She was hoping to connect to learn more about my career path in ambulatory care,” Wettergreen explained.
“I have been volunteering at the DAWN clinic since 2019,” Talwar said. “I have done multiple roles within the clinic starting off as a greeter and checking patients in, then during Covid, I was one of the telehealth managers specifically for the APPE (Advanced Professional Pharmacy Experience) team.”
“Dr. Wettergreen has been a constant support throughout my time at CU,” she continued.
Opportunity to Collaborate
When Wettergreen heard of the new Aspiring Academics program, she knew the program would be invaluable.
“When I was a student, I completed a previous program from AACP that had similar goals of providing a sneak peak of what a career in academia entails,” she explained. “This experience was the spark that set me on my career path…I knew that this would be a valuable experience for any student who had the opportunity to participate.”
She thought of Talwar, and suggested to her that she apply.
“Tamanna is a bright, highly motivated individual who seeks to gain a variety of experiences throughout her educational experience,” she said. “I knew her career goals, including her interest in exploring a career in academia.”
Talwar was immediately interested.
“When learning more about Aspiring Academics, I was intrigued by the unique engagement that touched on teaching modules, mentorship, and professional development built throughout the entire year,” she said. “The program touched on aspects of inspiring students from diverse backgrounds to explore the world of academia, which I can appreciate as a first-generation student.”
Talwar with Wettergreen to accept her Nelson Clinical Pharmacy Scholarship.
The program kicked off in August 2023 and Talwar is absorbing all she can. She hopes to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the roles within the world of academia, and to apply that knowledge throughout the remainder of pharmacy school and in her post-graduate career.
According to Wettergreen, Talwar has started to learn about key elements of faculty roles, academic pillars of teaching, scholarship and service, and the general process for promotion and tenure.
“She is completing program modules for each of these topic areas, and I’ve also helped coordinate one-on-one meetings with many leaders at our school to supplement the program materials,” Wettergreen explained. “It is my hope that the key learnings of the program and the relationships she creates with other students across the country will prove beneficial as she moves forward in her career.”
No education would be complete without a dedicated mentor. For Talwar, Wettergreen has filled that role.
“Through her constant support, Dr. Wettergreen has allowed me to develop my own professional and academic skills,” Talwar said. “I am encouraged by her dedication to both her patients and the students she precepts. Her ability to foster engaging yet teachable conversations is a skill that I recognize in which separates a decent preceptor from a great mentor.”
With Wettergreen in her corner, and Talwar’s drive to succeed, the two are limitless. Their experience with AACP’s program will be unlike any other.