Interested in learning all about drugs?
Located in the heart of downtown Kitchener is a towering glass building housing one of the most innovative programs in the country. A uWaterloo building that many students entering the Waterloo campus for the first time this year may never see.
Completed in December 2008, the building itself is an innovative masterpiece, featuring etchings of green herbs in homage to the program which calls the building home, the school of pharmacy. Hallman director and associate dean of the program, Dr. David Edwards takes pride in the campus. “We have a beautiful building here,” he said.
The school of pharmacy is one of only two such schools in Ontario and the only one in Canada with a co-op program. Second-year pharmacy student Tamara Wilson chose uWaterlo specifically for its co-op program. “I thought that that would be a really valuable experience in order to make connections and to get experience before I decided to commit to a full-time job,” she said.
The pharmacy program is a professional program, requiring students to have a minimum of two years of university with specific science courses to gain entry. Although new incoming students won’t begin the program until January, 25 of uWaterloo’s September frosh students have been pre-admitted to the pharmacy program under what is called the CAP (Conditional Admission to Pharmacy) program. These students were admitted on the basis of their outstanding science grades in high school and will enter the pharmacy program after completing their first two years at uWaterloo.
While undergraduate science courses are required to get into the program, Edwards says the program values arts courses as well.
“You have to have a strong science background, but you also have to have good communications skills,” he says, citing the growing need for pharmacists to be involved in communication with the public in order to effectively do their job.
More than just community pharmacists, the program trains graduates to work in hospitals, for drug companies, in the insurance industry and even with the government, to name just a few, creating a wide-range of opportunities needing a breadth of skills, including those found in arts courses.
“I think it’s a very rewarding profession,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of different types of careers within pharmacy.”
Locating the pharmacy program in its own off-campus building allows students of the program to take advantage of the benefits of attending a larger university, while fostering an atmosphere of a smaller school.
“I think a big difference is the smaller class size,” said Wilson, comparing uWaterloo’s program to other schools. “You only have 120 kids maximum and you’re together all the time, in the same building all day, so you become really close friends with everyone in it. You’re all in it together.”
The size and location of the program just scratch the surface when it comes to the innovation the school of pharmacy is creating. New teaching methods are helping to build strong pharmacists from the very first day. While most programs teach therapeutics, the effects of drugs and drug interactions, as separate upper courses , uWaterloo’s program integrates it into all subjects, encouraging this important part of the learning process from the beginning.
Students coming into the program must face hard competition, fighting for not just good, but outstanding grades to get acceptance. Wilson knows that pressure can lead students to create an overly-stressful environment for themselves.
“When you get into a professional school it’s harder and they need a way to differentiate people,” she said. “A lot of people freak out first year, especially since the course load is so intense.” Students are required to take nine courses in their first term instead of the usual five.
Wilson said the biggest advice she can give to new students is to relax a little and participate in outside activities.
“You need to learn the material and that’s all that really matters,” she said. “Four years is a long time to be stressed out, so you want to have a balance.”