t’s 8 a.m. on a Thursday morning. First-year pharmacy student Raul Fagundez settles into his seat with his laptop and a full cup of coffee. More than a dozen of his classmates are already in the Gainesville classroom — filling seats at the 24 circular tables. Fagundez, a Miami native, gives a casual glace at one of the 16 large television monitors circling the room. State-of-the-art videoconferencing technology allows him to see peers in Jacksonville and Orlando already preparing for class.
In the next 15 minutes, five of Fagundez’s teammates join him at the table. Their conversations revolve around presentation slides and class notes in anticipation of an individual and team quiz at the beginning of class. The team has been together since the start of school in August and relies upon each other to evaluate patient cases, take team quizzes and for moral support.
Welcome to the training environment for the 21st-century pharmacist. At the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, an innovative Pharm.D. curriculum introduced in 2015 is preparing pharmacists to be health care leaders — while embracing new ideas for teaching and empowering graduates to be lifelong learners. Its introduction has put UF at the forefront of pharmacy colleges.
Designed to prepare graduates for pharmacy practice into the 2060s, the curriculum focuses on personal and professional development, both of which are key to becoming a highly effective clinician. The college adopted a team-based learning approach that features students working in teams of six to address a case study or issue. Students learn to rely on each other to solve problems and agree on the best health care decisions. Teams of students in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Orlando are connected via videoconferencing and seamlessly participate in classroom activities together. Students also have interprofessional experiences that involve them in teamwork, further developing attitudes and skills to help them excel in health care.
“Today’s health care providers are encouraged to work in interprofessional teams to provide patient-centered care,” said Diane Beck, Pharm.D., ’77 and ’79, a professor emeritus and former associate dean for curricular affairs, who led implementation of the new curriculum. “It is only natural that a student’s educational training mirrors today’s health care environment.”
Video lectures are available on-demand prior to each class to provide fundamental knowledge. Most classes begin with an individual quiz to assess readiness, followed by a team quiz. Beck said students usually see improvements in the team score, which reinforces the benefits of working in teams.
Leading the classroom sessions are basic science and clinical faculty teaching together. The integrated courses connect science and pharmacy practice, so students can learn about multiple perspectives of a disease state simultaneously. Complementing the classroom sessions are skills lab activities throughout a student’s three years on campus. Each week, students participate in a skills lab activity that builds on their clinical knowledge and provides hands-on training. In addition, multiple milestone assessments are built into the curriculum to measure readiness for practice.
“Students must show competency and the outcomes we want them to achieve,” Beck said. “If they can perform tasks we require of them, we’re confident they will enter their fourth-year clinical rotations ready to apply their knowledge and contribute in patient care.”
Accompanying the core curriculum, which teaches the knowledge and skills to become a pharmacist, is a co-curriculum called personal and professional development. These activities are designed to support self-awareness and self-directed learning. There are three major components of personal and professional development, including courses that focus on educational outcomes such as leadership and professionalism, participation in co-curricular activities practiced outside of the classroom, such as volunteering at a community health fair, and the career coach program, which pairs each student with a practicing pharmacist to guide them through three cycles of continuing professional development.
“We want the personal and professional development curriculum to help students realize that knowledge plus positive attitudes and behavior patterns lead to successful careers,” said Michelle Farland, Pharm.D., BCPS, C.D.E., a clinical associate professor and director of the personal and professional development curriculum. “We are teaching professional attributes that build a foundation for the future success of our graduates.”