Written By: Deanna Tran, PharmD, BCACP, Assistant Professor in PPS

As an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) at the School of Pharmacy, I recently had an opportunity to participate in a faculty exchange program through the Pharmacy Practice Mariner Project. Named for NASA’s Mariner Program – which launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes to investigate Mars, Venus, and Mercury – the Pharmacy Practice Mariner Project engages early career clinical faculty in a personal exploration of academic roles, responsibilities, policies, and practices through a series of expeditions across a cohort of peer institutions.

Broadening My Horizons

When I first learned about the program, I knew it was an excellent opportunity to gain new insights into another institution’s teaching methods and curriculum – insights that I might be able to bring back to our pharmacy practice laboratory group, as well as the self-care and nonprescription pharmacotherapy course. After submitting my application, I was matched to travel to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy in June, where I was able to meet with faculty and leadership in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and learn more about how the school is preparing its student pharmacists to meet patients’ needs in today’s dynamic health care arena.

During my visit, I toured the school’s campus in Oxford, where first- and second-year student pharmacists take classes. I met with a number of faculty members, including those who taught in the skills lab and the over-the-counter course, as well as some who practiced in ambulatory care. I also visited the campus in Jackson, where third-year student pharmacists complete their didactic courses and rotations, and spoke with other faculty members, including Kim Adcock, PharmD, professor and director of faculty and academic affairs; Katie S. McClendon, PharmD, clinical associate professor and assistant dean for student services; and Meagan A. Brown, PharmD, clinical associate professor and coordinator for community pharmacy development.

Gaining a New Perspective

In my discussions with the faculty, I discovered that problem-based learning is a key teaching strategy for students in the third year of Mississippi’s Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. I truly enjoyed learning about this flipped-classroom teaching method, which centers on the learner in an effort to empower students to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop solutions and recommendations for a specific problem or case. It was great to see how the faculty implemented this method in the classroom, and how it helps students become independent learners who utilize both critical thinking and communication skills to solve problems in the clinical setting.

My interactions with faculty provided me with a chance to bounce ideas off like-minded individuals, understanding that our institutions often encounter similar challenges in our efforts to advance both pharmacy education and the profession. I learned that faculty at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy are working to implement a new curriculum that has some similarities to our School’s curriculum. It is my hope that the experiences that I shared will help them as they move forward in that process. Before my visit concluded, I delivered a seminar titled “‘SPEC-tacular Change: Self-Care and Nonprescription Pharmacotherapy,” which highlighted the new self-care course now offered our students.

Although my trip was brief, the information that I learned will be invaluable in honing my teaching methods and advancing my professional growth. My sincere thanks to Jill A. Morgan, PharmD, BCPS, BCPPS, associate professor and chair of PPS, and the faculty at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy for allowing me the opportunity to visit, learn, and share experiences that I know will help shape our outlook as educators and practitioners in the future.

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