Success Beyond the Classroom: Preparing PharmDawgs for the Future

The UGA College of Pharmacy PharmD Class of 2024 is celebrating a record-breaking year for post-graduation opportunities. The College has seen historic highs in residency matches and fellowships, propelling talented graduates into advanced training opportunities nationwide.

The College has seen historic highs in residency matches, with an impressive 90.8% of students who applied for a residency securing positions – exceeding the national average by 10%. Over half of the graduating class, 54.8%, chose to pursue residency training to develop specialized clinical expertise. But residencies aren’t the only path attracting the College’s talented students. As of April, six graduates will enter prestigious fellowships after graduation in the pharmaceutical industry and other sectors. Many more have secured full or part-time positions in community pharmacies, hospitals, industry roles, and other career paths.

Even more impressive: the College’s holistic approach to support post-graduate success is not limited to just PharmD students. The entire student body, including undergraduates, Masters, and PhD candidates benefit from the College’s vested interest in the future endeavors of their charges.

This extraordinary commitment doesn’t happen by chance. The College’s Office of Student Affairs, along with faculty and staff mentors, provide robust career development programming that prepares students for the transition from the university setting – to postgraduate education, residencies, and the workplace. “Career literacy skills are vital for our students’ long-term professional growth,” said Dr. Danielle Vitale, UGA’s Director of Admissions and Career Development. “We’re one of the few pharmacy schools in the nation with a faculty member dedicated to career development, which allows us to offer individualized counseling and a wealth of skill-building opportunities.”

Those opportunities include seminars on resumes, cover letters, interviewing, networking, and exploring different pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences career paths. The College also connects students with employers through recruitment events and on-campus interviews coordinated by the Office of Student Affairs.  The College even provides counseling and free financial planning services, covering such topics as budgeting, planning, student loans, and more.

A highlight for PharmD students is the annual Career Development Week, packing workshops, employer sessions, and interviews into a dedicated week when fourth-year pharmacy students are off rotations. This year, more than 60 students attended curriculum vitae reviews and mock interview prep sessions during the week.

Another avenue for PharmDs is the employer spotlight sessions in which pharmacy companies share their organization’s mission, values, and culture; career pathways; and any innovative practices that set them apart. These sessions increase students’ awareness of the company and employment opportunities and enhance employers’ contact with College of Pharmacy students.  Some of this year’s employer spotlights included Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, Integrity Compounding, Walmart, PharmD on Demand, LabCorp, and others.

Beyond the robust programming, the college provides easily accessible resources to support students’ career journeys. A weekly Career Opportunities Digest shares job postings, internships, residencies, fellowships, and other prospects. An online Career Development Resource Library hosts video recordings of past employer presentations, interview guides, and other materials.

Career development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students abound, thanks to staff from the Office of Student Affairs and interested faculty.  Dr. Neil Grimsey, Assistant Professor in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, and Deborah Martinez, Graduate Student Affairs Officers, work closely with the UGA Career Center to provide graduate students with multiple workshops, including Improving Your LinkedIn Presence, Strategic Job Searching, and an alumni career panel. For undergraduate students, the Office works with employer partners, such as from Walgreens and CVS (see previous CoP story about this topic), to create externship opportunities for pre-pharmacy students interested in a community pharmacy setting.

Dr. Jisu Lee, from Duluth, GA, is a recent graduate of the PharmD program and had words of praise for Dr. Vitale and the College of Pharmacy. “I am immensely grateful for the numerous opportunities that the UGA College of Pharmacy has provided me. The career development team’s dedication to student success ensured that I was well-prepared for the professional world. The support I received was not limited to just career consultations; it was a continuous, dynamic process of building lasting relationships with mentors. These interactions were invaluable, providing me with insights and advice that have shaped my career trajectory.”

Lee, who is doing a post-graduate year one residency at East Alabama Medical Center, added, “My time under the mentorship of Dr. Vitale was especially transformative. I experienced substantial growth both personally and professionally, benefiting from her guidance and expertise. The mentorship and career guidance I experienced extended beyond the typical student-mentor relationship, fostering a strong, supportive bond that has been instrumental in my development and confidence needed to excel in my career. The UGA College of Pharmacy is an institution that is deeply committed to the success of its students and tailors support to individual interests.”

The College’s investment in multi-faceted career preparation initiatives is reaping substantial dividends in the form of outstanding post-graduation outcomes. In a 2023 nationally-administered survey by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), 92.2% of UGA PharmD graduates agreed that the College provided excellent access to career planning guidance. This year’s internal senior survey revealed an even higher 95.7% of the Class of 2024 felt well-prepared to pursue their desired career path after graduation.

“Our students’ remarkable success reaffirms our steadfast commitment to supporting their professional development in lockstep with academic training,” said Dean Kelly M. Smith. “The Class of 2024’s achievements will undoubtedly impact healthcare delivery across Georgia, our nation, and beyond as they launch trailblazing pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences careers.”

For questions about Career Development, contact Dr. Danielle Vitale

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