ETSU students can get started early on pharmacy career through new program

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University students looking at a future in pharmacy can get an early taste of life as a pharmacy student through a new program.

ETSU’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy opened a new program for students interested in pursuing pharmacy this year. High school seniors and ETSU freshmen have until the end of March to complete their applications for the college’s early admission pathway program.

Dr. Debbie Byrd, dean and professor at Gatton, said the new program lets students assimilate into pharmacy school as they complete the prerequisite undergraduate coursework required to start the program.

Unlike high school jump start programs, students in the early admission pathway don’t complete any coursework for the pharmacy program, but Byrd said it opens the door for students to make an early decision about their career path.

“We do shadowing to let them do even some more career exploration or broaden career exploration for pharmacy, so for those students that really already know what they want to be when they grow up, it’s an opportunity to come directly into pharmacy and be engaged with us from day one,” Byrd said.

The program can help students who are certain of their career in pharmacy, but can also help fence-sitters decide whether or not they want to pursue the program after completing necessary undergraduate coursework.

It can also give students a window into the different tracks a career in pharmacy can take them from research to working in a community pharmacy.

“I think the interaction not only with our faculty and staff early on will help them solidify that decision, but also interacting with our students to get a sense of what is this experience like from a student perspective here at Gatton,” she said. “They can learn more about what the curriculum is like what the expectations are, how intense it is, as again they kind of make that final decision along the way.”

The program doesn’t add any fees to students who participate, and Byrd said application fees are being waived for students who apply this semester.

High school students who decide to apply can do so online. There isn’t a base grade-point average or test score requirement, but the website notes that competitive applicants will have at least a 3.5 GPA and 25 on the ACT.

ETSU freshmen who apply must be full-time students enrolled with at least 12 credit hours of math and science classes under their belts and be on-track to complete two semesters at ETSU at the time of applying.

After applying, students will go through an interview process at the college. The pathway can also be applied with a new “three-plus-one” degree introduced for biology and chemistry majors to enroll at Gatton after three years in undergraduate programs.

The students in that program can finish their undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry after one year in the PharmD program.

Byrd said the program is flexible around students as they figure out where the pharmacy program fits into their education.

“There’s not really a clock ticking from our perspective so we just want to give them another way to get here,” she said.

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