Many will agree that experience is the best teacher, which is why the Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) required of sixth-year Pharm.D. students are so important. In their final year, pharmacy students must complete nine four-week APPEs, five of which are assigned, and four electives. St. John’s University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences currently has more than 300 affiliated APPE sites and nearly 1,000 preceptors to accommodate the sixth-year classes that average between 220 and 260 students each year.
“We have experienced tremendous growth in our APPE electives and in the number of students accepted to competitive national pharmacy experiential sites,” explained Tina J. Kanmaz ’93P, ’95Pharm.D., Associate Clinical Professor and Assistant Dean for Experiential Pharmacy Education.
“The Office of the Dean has given special priority to expanding APPE offerings, in particular building on the Alumni Insiders View (AIV) program that brings students to Washington, DC, each year to visit alumni in their workplaces.”
The numbers bear out this growth trend. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) traditionally has taken only one or two St. John’s students per year; now, between 12 and 15 APPE students are accepted annually. To date, 91 students have completed FDA rotations.
There has been a similar increase at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “The initial preceptor there took one or two students each year,” said Dr. Kanmaz. “During the AIV to Walter Reed, other preceptor candidates were identified, and we have placed five students there this year.” Adding to the excitement this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accepted the first two St. John’s students this academic year.
The College endeavors to offer a diverse selection of APPE sites. Among them are national pharmacy organizations, such as the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacists and the Pharmacy Quality Alliance. Kaiser Permanente offers placements throughout its system, and the roster of pharmaceutical industry sites, while still relatively small, continues to grow and now includes APPEs at Pfizer, Inc.; Novartis AG; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and Allergan plc.
Of particular interest is expanding APPE offerings outside of New York State. “Sending students on APPEs out of state gives them the opportunity to learn about the laws and the state of practice in those places,” Dr. Kanmaz explained, noting that this academic year there have been close to 30 out-of-state requests.
The College also offers three global APPEs. In Jamaica and Guatemala, students join established medical missions bringing health care to underserved communities. In Taiwan, students are assigned to one of the three hospitals affiliated with Taipei Medical University. For this program, students must have working knowledge of Mandarin. To ensure that students can take advantage of these global opportunities, alumni contributions to the College’s annual gala provide travel scholarships.
Alumni play a significant role in the APPE program. For example, Kimberly DeFronzo, R.Ph., M.B.A. ’88MS, Pharmacist/Consumer Safety Officer in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, was instrumental in recruiting additional preceptors so that more students could obtain rotations there.
“Our alumni have been extremely generous in helping us open doors at their respective workplaces,” said Russell J. DiGate, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“Their selfless efforts to help the next generation are a perfect example of the Vincentian spirit we practice here at the University and that they obviously carry within them.”
For students, APPEs are an eye opener. “Having a rotation at the FDA exposed me to various fields that pharmacists can enter upon graduation and helped me with my future goal of ensuring a patient’s safety and improving public health,” said Pharmacy student Ruchira Kasbekar.
Pharmacy student Anna Diyamandoglu, who completed an APPE at the CDC’s Division of Drug Service, also glimpsed into the pharmacy world. “This rotation helped me gain a better understanding of how intricate public health projects are executed at the highest level within government while working with some of the most motivated, well-rounded individuals and students from across the country.”
Pharmacy student Chirag Gosalia completed a rotation at Walter Reed where he was able to interact directly with patients. “These opportunities are what I feel made me a stronger student practitioner and helped me develop my knowledge and skill set,” he said.
“APPEs open the world to our students,” said Dean DiGate. “They see for themselves how the classroom teachings apply in the real world. We cannot sufficiently thank the many preceptors who give generously of their time. Our students are indeed very fortunate.”