Advice for your final year of pharmacy school

Advice for your final year of pharmacy school

By Ken Liu

The last year of pharmacy school for many is a radical shift from previous years. School is out, and the cycle of study-test-repeat is mercifully over. However, this is also perhaps the most important year from which your early career will be determined.

Attend every event that your school offers so that you may learn about postgraduate opportunities. I did not know what direction my career would take, and attending showcases and roundtable discussions allowed me to explore the various opportunities. I eventually decided on pursuing the fellowship route after careful consideration and conversation with several programs. Don’t shy away from the difficult faculty rotations that your school may offer, and choose a variety of different rotation types so as to not limit yourself to one specific area.

If you are thinking of pursuing a pharmaceutical industry fellowship, selecting advanced pharmacy practice rotations at a pharmaceutical company is beneficial. However, if your school is in a location with few industry opportunities, do not view this as a limitation. Other rotations such as drug information or specialty pharmacies offer relevant experience as well. In my own personal experience at a large specialty pharmacy, I had the opportunity to work with various teams in oncology, multiple sclerosis, and virology as they counselled patients, performed REMs requirements, and investigated drug information queries. At a drug information center rotation in a large academic medical center, I researched frequent and (sometimes urgent) information requests from across the whole state and prepared formulary dossiers for the medical center. Both of these rotations allowed me to gain baseline knowledge for many specialty products; knowledge that I would find beneficial during interviews at ASHP Midyear.

If you are thinking of post-doctoral education, positive recommendations are vital to be considered a competitive candidate. As you begin your rotations, realize that the grade, while significant, should not be your sole focus. Rather, building a relationship with your preceptor and proving yourself to be a responsible and diligent student will go a long way towards a solid recommendation. In addition, every project you complete while on rotations is fair game to place on your CV and highlight during future interviews. Therefore, choose meaningful projects that have a real impact on the health system or company you are rotating at, and push yourself to do a thorough job – you never know when you will be asked to speak about them.

Consider also the timing of your rotations in respect to ASHP Midyear – if possible, the rotations most relevant to the post-graduate opportunity you decide to pursue should occur before Midyear. Also ensure that the preceptor for the rotation you are on during Midyear (which typically occurs in early December) is aware that you plan to attend so you can make up the hours if necessary.

The last piece of advice I have: although you may no longer see your classmates on a regular basis through lectures, make sure to take the time to get together and let loose occasionally. The rotation grind is long and can be tiresome, and it is important to balance work and play!