Trio of Practitioners Selected as 2023 Preceptors of the Year

Dr. Sara Hall ’08, Dr. Lauren House, and Dr. Zach Wigginton epitomize the meaning of “Preceptor.”  As experienced practitioners who provide instruction, modeling, coaching, and facilitation to CoP pharmacy students rotating through their practice experiences, these preceptors guide PharmDawgs to apply theory learned in the classroom to actual patient care.

Their dedication and commitment to teaching these future pharmacists has not gone unnoticed. Selected as UGA College of Pharmacy Preceptors of the Year, the trio was recognized at PharmD Commencement on May 6th.

With more than 1,100 preceptors throughout the state, the value of the role these pharmacists play in the educational process of pharmacy students cannot be overemphasized.  Said Dr. Lindsey Welch, CoP’s Director of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences, “Without preceptors, the education our students receive is incomplete. The experiential curriculum is an integral, critical, valuable part of our students’ training.”

The following are career highlights of these award-winning preceptors and their thoughts on being a guiding force in the lives of future pharmacists.

Sara Hall ‘08, Pharm.D.
Director of Pharmacy Services, University Cancer and Blood Center

Dr. Hall received her PharmD from UGA’s College of Pharmacy in 2008. Since then, she has worked at an independent retail compounding pharmacy, at Walgreens HIV Specialty, and currently, she is the Director of Pharmacy Services at University Cancer and Blood Center in Athens. Developing an interest in specialty pharmacy, Dr. Hall also expanded into patient education, teaching programs in weight loss, diabetes, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, and breastfeeding. A CoP preceptor since 2009, Dr. Hall remarked, “The College of Pharmacy provided me with the foundation to become a confident, effective pharmacist and motivated me to become a preceptor to inspire future pharmacists. I am deeply honored to receive this award. To be recognized by students for something as important as the future of the pharmacy profession and to receive the award in the presence of so many great leaders is incredible.”

Why do you enjoy being a preceptor? What aspects of the role are meaningful?
Preceptorship is mutually beneficial. Students keep me on my toes, and fourth-year students are an incredible resource. Their knowledge base is current and robust. I enjoy introducing students to oncology pharmacy in an independent practice and developing long lasting relationships.

What skills and values do you teach your pharmacy students?
There are so many different career paths for pharmacists today and only a few students will specialize in oncology; however, they will encounter oncology patients in every field. I hope each student leaves with an understanding of the unique situation that accompanies a cancer diagnosis, including the physical, financial, and mental health impacts for the patient as well as the caregivers.

Do you have a favorite memory about being a preceptor?
I have had so many wonderful experiences through the years; it’s impossible to choose one. There is a constant theme with PharmDawgs: their eagerness to learn, even during a rotation that is full of unfamiliar material. I love the moments when students find the fun in learning, whether it be when they give a presentation that suits their personality or when they make a good intervention. It’s so rewarding to see when each student gets closer to becoming the pharmacist they’re meant to be.

Lauren House, Pharm.D.
Pediatric Clinical Pharmacist, Memorial Health Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah

Dr. Lauren House earned her undergraduate degree at UGA and later received a Doctor of Pharmacy from South University School of Pharmacy in 2013. She was a pharmacy practice resident at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, joining the clinical pharmacy department when she completed her residency in 2014. Currently, she serves as a pediatric hematology/oncology clinical pharmacist at the Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah. “Being selected as ‘Preceptor of the Year’ is an honor, but I could not have done my job well if it were not for the students’ enthusiasm and eagerness to learn on my rotation,” said Dr. House.  Her responses to other interview questions follow.

Why do you enjoy being a preceptor? What aspects of the role are meaningful?
Being a preceptor is very rewarding and a bonus to my other day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. I enjoy watching students grow and build upon the knowledge they learn from the beginning to the end of the rotation. Typically, students don’t receive much exposure to pediatric pharmacotherapy in school, so it is very meaningful when they develop a liking and appreciation for pediatric pharmacy during my rotation. I hear a lot at the beginning that they are very intimidated and nervous, which is completely understandable, but later they value and appreciate everything new they learned and saw throughout the rotation experience.

What skills and values do you teach your pharmacy students?
I tell every student they will never know everything, even when they are on their own in a clinical practice, regardless of how experienced they are. I cannot stress enough how important it is to use the resources you have and understand that you will continue to learn something new in practice all the time.

Zach Wigginton, Pharm.D.
Pharmacy Manager, CVS Pharmacy #16468

A native of Louisville, KY, Dr. Zach Wigginton was raised in Johns Creek, GA. From 2012-15, he attended Georgia Southern University, and in 2019, he graduated from the Georgia Campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). Following his education, he began work as a floating pharmacist for CVS Pharmacy in Augusta and has since advanced to a pharmacy manager for a top performing location. “I feel shocked and grateful,” said Dr. Wigginton about his selection as Preceptor of the Year. “Shocked, because I never imagined having such a strong impact on these students, but I’m grateful I can help in their journey and careers.”

Why do you enjoy being a preceptor? What aspects of the role are meaningful?
I enjoy teaching and passing along all the tips and tricks of pharmacy that I’ve learned over the years, showing students things they may not have the opportunity to see otherwise.

What skills and values do you teach your pharmacy students?
I teach and coach mostly about building confidence and overall pharmacy knowledge. Most students already know all the clinical knowledge they will need, but not all feel ready to become pharmacists. I work on promoting them and helping them realize that they are capable and ready to be a great pharmacist, whether in a retail or clinical setting. When they leave, I want all students to feel comfortable with understanding the importance of what we do.

Do you have a favorite memory about being a preceptor?
I enjoy each rotation and experience for what it is with each student. My favorite memories are usually on the final day, when the students are allowed to run the pharmacy with minimal help and seeing how they have developed.

Preceptors of the Year are (l-r) Sara Hall, Lauren House, and Zach Wigginton.

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