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2016 Preceptor Awards

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Written by cupharmacy on June 13, 2016

We know the amazing impact our preceptors have on our students’ lives. Here’s a look at this year’s Annual Preceptor Dinner winners.

Justin Hanel – Ambulatory Care Excellence in Precepting Award

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Justin Hanel, a Colorado native, was born and raised in Alamosa.  He attended Ft. Lewis College in Durango where he majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology.  Hanel is a perfect example of why students should treat every APPE like a job interview: he was hired for a job while he was on rotation.  While completing a rotation at Valley Wide Health Systems in Alamosa, the Director of Operations called him and offered him a job. Upon graduation, he accepted the position and six months later became the Director of Pharmacy for Valley Wide, a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center that serves a large multi-county service area throughout southern Colorado. Students have the opportunity to rotate through many of the primary care clinics throughout the San Luis Valley, and interact with medical, dental, physical therapy and other pharmacy professionals during their experience.  In other words – they get to see it all.

Hanel says that students are invaluable to everything the clinics do, from providing diabetes medication counseling, to anticoagulation services, to immunizations, so that their patients are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Hanel has taken numerous Entry Level Pharm D students, and Distance Degrees and Programs students over the past few years, and because there is such variety of what he can offer students, he is able to tailor experiences to the students’ interests and abilities. One student commented “The rotation has been a great experience! I appreciate the opportunity to participate in a variety of experiences, with the anticoag clinic, in the pharmacy, and working with providers. Hanel took the time to explain things to me and make sure I was getting the most out of the rotation. I would highly recommend this rotation to any student interested in ambulatory care pharmacy.” Another student commented that Hanel did a great job of teaching students the skills that are used for a life of work in ambulatory care and stated “he was great with patients.  You can tell he really cares for them.”

Bruce Abbott – Community Pharmacy Excellence in Precepting Award

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)The Community Pharmacy Excellence in Precepting Award winner, Captain Bruce Abbott is the Pharmacy Supervisor at Buckley Air Force Base Pharmacy here in Denver.  Capt. Abbott grew up as a military brat, stating that the “military is somewhat of a family business” for him. He attended pharmacy school at Lipscomb University in Nashville.  During his first year of pharmacy school, Capt Abbott applied for the Air Force Scholarship, and was ranked #1 out of the 113 who applied.  He had no intention of joining the military, but because he was selected for this scholarship, he said the benefits of joining were too good to pass up.  After completing all of his APPE rotations at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Capt Abbott immediately went to Officer Training School in Alabama.  He was then sent to Colorado to become the lead pharmacist at Buckley Air Force Base.  His busy pharmacy fills more than 1,200 prescriptions per day, and students at his site have the opportunity to engage with active duty servicemen/women, veterans and dependents.  Although he hasn’t been precepting very long, his students note that that Capt Abbott is “passionate about learning and has high expectations”, “has an exceptional level of leadership skills”, and “sets the bar for professionalism.”

One P4 student, Geremi Boom commented “I did not anticipate to grow as much as I did in the six weeks I spent here. I feel that the level of expectations Capt Abbott has for his students allow us to maximize our own potential and take pride in serving our nation’s service men and women.”  Another comment read, “I am not aware if Capt Abbott realizes how much his leadership and selflessness are observed and appreciated in the pharmacy by his students, soldiers and patients.”  He is an exceptional role model.

We asked Capt Abbott what he enjoys about precepting, and he said he likes the opportunity to both teach and learn from students, and that he is humbled by what students can teach him and his staff.  He also said his students bring a “fresh, civilian perspective to an otherwise very structured environment.”  When I asked him what has been the most memorable student encounter he’s had so far, he said it’s when he has the pharmacy students do push-ups with him at the top of the hour.

Capt. Abbott’s patients include Purple Hearts, Medal of Honor Recipients, dependents of those who are serving, high ranking military officers, men and women preparing to deploy etc. He has high expectations for his students (and staff) when it comes to professionalism and exhibition of behavior which I greatly appreciated. This attitude propels all of the concepts the students are taught in their communications courses.  One final comment from one of his nominations was this: “Capt. Abbott sets the bar for professionalism above that of what we are used to.”

Megan Wong – Health System Excellence in Precepting Award


(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado) 2016 graduate Nick Tinker, Dr. Megan Wong, and Dean Ralph Altiere at the Preceptor Awards.


Dr. Megan Wong was born and raised in Arvada. Thinking she wanted to pursue veterinary school, Wong attend CSU where she received a BS in Biology.  After participating in the “In Roads” internship program that placed her in a pharmacy (they had no veterinarians to place her with at the time), she met some incredible mentors and began to fall in love with the field of pharmacy.  She went on to receive her PharmD from UCSF School of Pharmacy in 2009, and completed a PGY1 Residency at Tacoma General Hospital in Seattle. Upon completion of her residency, she became the MTM pharmacist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in the Primary Care Clinic.  When she and her husband decided to make the move back to Colorado, she was certain she would not work in a hospital. After searching for ambulatory care positions, an opportunity came up at University Hospital, and she decided to take it.

She is now the Clinical Pharmacy Specialist for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at University Hospital, which she says is her dream job.  Wong has only been precepting for a few years, but she says she gets satisfaction in precepting, because it comes “full circle” for her.  She says she had such outstanding preceptors and mentors when she was a student that she wants to do the same for others. Wong received numerous nominations from students who made comments like “…she sets a great example of what a pharmacist and preceptor should be” and “she encourages me to develop my own thinking process” and “each day she challenges me further and further, making me realize how much I can really handle.”

When asked what her most memorable and rewarding preceptor experience has been, she mentioned her experience with one of her more recent students, Nick Tinker. She said that she does push students to do more than they think they’re capable of, and pushed Nick to his limit, and it paid off – Nick was just accepted to his top pick for residency programs, something he didn’t think he wanted or would be able to do.

Dr. Ken Cohen – Provider Excellence in Precepting Pharmacy Students Award

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Dr. Ken Cohen was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he also completed medical school training, residency and chief residency training at Hahnemann University.  He serves as the Chief Medical Officer at New West Physicians, one of the largest physician-owned primary care physician groups in Colorado.  For eight years Cohen has been providing our pharmacy students the opportunity to see the benefits of an evidence-based practice.  In fact, New West Physicians just earned the 2015 Acclaim Award from the American Medical Group Association for its innovations in providing cost-effective, high-quality, evidence-based primary care.  Cohen says he enjoys the interaction with students, and instilling in them why evidence-based medicine is vital in providing optimal healthcare.  He says he likes to be taught by students, because they possess a different body of knowledge, so it’s his opportunity to learn as much as he teaches.  Cohen’s most memorable student encounters are those when he and the pharmacy student meet with patients who come in for routine blood pressure follow-up, and during the encounter, an entirely new chapter unfolds about the patient.  He says those interactions are invaluable for students, and really shows them how decisions are made about a patient’s care. Students comment that Cohen immediately integrates them into his patient visits, and has a lot of clinical experience to share with them that will help them be better prepared for practice.

Dr. Manning Pickett – Provider Excellence in Precepting Pharmacy Students Award

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)Dr. Manning Pickett is a physician at Western Medical Center in Lakewood. Pickett completed his medical training at the University of Mississippi, and completed his residency training in internal medicine at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center here in Denver.  In 1975, he became the first critical care physician at St. Anthony’s, and did that for 10 years.  In 1985, he decided to step away from the critical care realm and began practicing primary care at the same clinic where he is today.

Pickett says sick people don’t scare him one bit, and that he wants students to understand that primary care is where complex patient issues and disease states unfold.  His advice for pharmacy students is “don’t be intimidated, don’t guess, take your eyes off the damn computer screen, and listen to your patient.” He enjoys that pharmacy students are inquisitive and genuinely interested in how primary care works. He challenges his students to get to know his patients, “deconstruct them physiologically,” and keep digging until they get to the root of the problem.

Pickett has taken pharmacy students for over 10 years and has never missed a year of precepting our students. We hope that he will continue to take our students for many more to come.

Connie Valdez – Faculty Excellence in Precepting Award


(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado) Dr. Connie Valdez, Dean Ralph Altiere, and 2016 graduate Chandler Follett.


Our Faculty Preceptor Award winner is a native Coloradoan. Dr. Connie Valdez was born and raised in Castle Rock, just outside of Denver. She attended Douglas County High School when, in her words, “Castle Rock was a cow town with one stoplight.” After high school, Valdez attended CU Boulder, where she thought she would obtain a chemical engineering degree.  Soon after taking Calculus, she realized it wasn’t for her and decided to pursue pharmacy instead.  When in college, Connie said she “ran out of money,” and decided to join the Army.  After a few years in the Army as a pharmacy lab specialist, she was stationed at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina, then Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.  She applied to pharmacy school while she was in the Army, and when she was accepted, she transitioned to the Army Reserves and was stationed at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center.  Valdez is a two-time graduate from the CU School of Pharmacy: once in 1995 for her Bachelor’s in Pharmacy, and then again in 1997 with her Pharm.D. degree.  Upon graduation, she completed a residency at Centura Health, then worked at the Gates Rubber Company Headquarters in their medical clinic, where she established pharmacy services for their employees.  After the clinic closed in 1999, she worked at University of Colorado Hospital and at Kaiser until she joined the faculty in 2002.

Valdez says the most rewarding part of precepting is watching students transition from day one (a deer in headlights) to confident and practice-ready by the end of the rotation.  She enjoys watching the students’ critical thinking skills develop and confidence levels grow.  She says that having students “elevates the profession,” and that her interprofessional team of providers rely on pharmacy students to enhance their practice. Valdez teaches students the skills necessary to become independent learners and give them the opportunity to transition from a mentee to a colleague.  She now splits her time between the Sheridan Clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center, Denver Indian Health and the School of Pharmacy. She precepts close to 15 students per year and is also the Course Director for the Pharmacotherapy I and II Self-Care course.  Valdez also precepts students for the DAWN clinic, a clinic serving the indigent and immigrant population in Aurora, and the student-run Trifinio Clinic near Coatepeque, Guatemala.

Sarah Scoular – Office of Experiential Programs Service Award

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)Dr. Sarah Scoular is a Senior Instructor at the School of Pharmacy and preceptor for several unique experiences.  Scoular is also a native Coloradoan, born and raised in Colorado Springs.  She aspired to be a lot of things, but pharmacy was never really one of those things, at first.  She thought architecture or civil engineering might be nice, then a degree in journalism caught her eye.  And, for a brief moment, she thought being an anthropology major would be a good idea.  When it came time to really decide what to do, she thought: “I need constant inspiration to be motivated.  I have one life to live.  I should use this life to help people and inspire them.”  So after completing undergraduate coursework at the University of Kansas, she decided that pharmacy would be a good fit for her and graduated from the CU School of Pharmacy in 2008.  She went on to complete a PGY1 residency at Exempla St. Joseph’s Hospital, and a PGY2 residency in Critical Care and Infectious Disease at University Hospital.  Her primary rotation is with the Internal Medicine team at University Hospital.

Scoular has not only been a preceptor for students, but she has also been a mentor to students who have struggled during the experiential year.  The students she has mentored have become successful practicing pharmacists who are making significant contributions to patient care.  Scoular has also worked tirelessly to establish several new rotations, for which she also precepts. She provides leadership through many student outreach projects such as serving as a primary preceptor at the DAWN Clinic and co-precepts for the new interprofessional Trifinio Health Clinic in Guatemala. Her passion for global health and advocacy inspires students to step outside of their comfort zones and provide care to patients in need.  An experience she has as a student in Quito, Ecuador, helped her realize the impact she could have on people who are “critically ill and have nothing.” This motivates her to provide an environment where she trusts students to work independently, and as a result, gives students the opportunity to realize what kind of impact they can have. She is an outstanding role model, preceptor, and practitioner and she is an asset to our students, the Experiential Education Program and to the School.

Tom Heissenbuttel – Outstanding Preceptor of the Year Award


(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado) 2016 graduate Taylor Alford, Dean Ralph Altiere, and Dr. Tom Heissenbuttel at the Preceptor Awards.


Although he was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Tom Heissenbuttel is a ’97 alum from the CU School of Pharmacy and has practiced as a community pharmacist at Walgreens ever since.  Walgreens runs deep with Heissenbuttel and his family; his father is also pharmacist, and his brother, Chris, who also graduated from CU in 1994, is a Walgreens pharmacist in Florida. When asked what brought him to Colorado, he said “New Jersey is a great place to be from.  It’s hard to beat Boulder, if you’re from Jersey.”  So he attended the University of Colorado where he received his BA degree in Psychology. He then graduated pharmacy school in 1997, and, in 2003, Heissenbuttel earned his MBA from the Daniel’s College of Business at the University of Denver.

Heissenbuttel is the Walgreens Pharmacy Manager on Leetsdale and Quebec. In addition to the high volume of prescriptions they fill daily, there is a unique compounding area – one of only a few in the entire country.  The pharmacy was originally purchased from a pharmacist, Bob Light, who helped Walgreens build the compounding area at the store. Including the Walgreens in Grand Junction and the Walgreens in Children’s Hospital of Colorado, his store is one of the busiest compounding centers of excellence in the country.

Heissenbuttel is the market compounding lead, and teaches compounding for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians statewide.  Students have the opportunity to hone their compounding skills, and prepare unique medications for humans and animals.  In just one year, Heissenbuttel has provided both IPPE and APPE experiences for more than 20 entry-level PharmD students, Distance Degrees and Programs students, and international students, in addition to providing experiences to our Pharmabridge visitors from Africa.  Heissenbuttel is never one to shy away from teaching students the importance of a retail pharmacist and the value of the services they provide in their communities.  Also of note, Heissenbuttel was the first recipient of the “Dave Award,” an award given to the most inquisitive student in the class, from Dr. David Thompson, one of our Associate Deans.

Heissenbuttel received multiple nominations this year, with some of the most complimentary comments we have read.  One student stated “Heissenbuttel loves and respects his students.  He motivates them, encourages them and believes in them.  In turn, this motivates us to do a great job.  He is one of the best preceptors this school has to offer.”

Another commented that Heissenbuttel always makes his students a priority, goes above and beyond, has a talent for teaching and explaining things simply, invests in developing students into highly functional pharmacists, and makes the time spent at Walgreens very worthwhile. I asked Heissenbuttel about his most memorable student, and he stated his intern, Taylor Alford, a P4, really sticks out in his mind.  He said she came in not knowing anything, and now, after a few years working with him, knows everything.  He told Taylor not to be afraid and that he was going to be there for her every step of the way until she could do his job.

Topics: Alumni