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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Building Bridges -- Change Is In The Air!

(If you are a regular reader of this blog, over the next several years you're going to hear a LOT about Bridges, our new pharmacy curriculum. It's pretty exciting so we plan to share information with you on a very regular basis. For those applying in Fall 2017 -- for entry in 2018 -- this is particularly important as you'll see below. Dr. Tina Brock, a key player in this transition, agreed to a Q&A as a way to introduce prospective students to Bridges and the motivation to introduce a new curriculum. Bridges is certainly a work-in-progress. We don't have all the answers now -- which is why we want you to join us early-on and watch as it unfolds! Towards the bottom of this post, you'll see a link to sign-up for our monthly e-newsletters.)

Is it true that UCSF is changing its PharmD curriculum?

Yep!  It’s true.  The Pathways Curriculum, which we launched 10 years before the first generation iPhone, has served us well for many years.  But, like mobile phones, health care and education have gone through many changes since that time.  We want to be responsive to the new healthcare environment and also to the feedback our stakeholders have provided for how best to educate the 21st century pharmacist.  So we’re designing the Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum.

Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum - that’s a funny name for a PharmD program, isn’t it?
San Francisco is a city known for bridges—the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge are world-recognized icons.  And we think a bridge is a great analogy for what we’re doing with our PharmD program – building connections between different fields of science, between different health professionals, between patients and communities, and between foundational training (the PharmD degree) and advanced training (like residencies, fellowships, masters and PhD degree programs and certifications, such as pharmacotherapy specialties).

The UCSF School of Medicine is also changing the curriculum for the MD degree and, because we’re working together with them, “Bridges” is a shared approach; we even share a Twitter account - @ucsfbridges – follow us!

But why would an already strong PharmD program like UCSF need to change?  Is something wrong?
The current PharmD program at UCSF is very strong, but the truth is, health care isn’t as good as it can be.  And we take seriously our responsibility to make it better.  We believe that every person deserves access to quality medicines and healthcare services. To achieve this goal, new models in education, practice, and research are necessary.  And where better to create, test, evaluate, and share these new models than a health sciences campus with a legacy of achievement like UCSF?  Something would be wrong if we didn’t change.

I’m intrigued… what are some of the key features of the Bridges Pharmacy curriculum?
When we started this, Dean Joe Guglielmo challenged us to work “from a blank canvas.” (You can see more of his thoughts about that in this post.)  Instead of making our first generation iPhone better, we’re leapfrogging to the 6S Plus!

Some of the features we’re most excited about include:
 
  • Didactic courses organized as integrated systems blocks across multiple scientific disciplines
  • Synthesis weeks to integrate concepts between the blocks
  • A seminar series focused on cutting edge frontiers of science and practice of therapeutics
  • Authentic interprofessional activities embedded throughout the didactic and experiential courses
  • A depth project introducing background knowledge in a focused area, leading to the design and executive of an implementation project
I heard that the UCSF PharmD program will now be 3 years.  I know there are other 3-year PharmD programs out there, but that sounds crazy -- why would UCSF do that?
The vision for the Bridges Pharmacy curriculum is 12 quarters over 3 calendar years.  It’s essentially the same number of quarters, but don’t worry, it’s definitely not our current curriculum squeezed into one fewer year. That would be crazy!

Our faculty, alumni, and student stakeholders created vision for what a UCSF PharmD graduate should be.  We researched changes in pharmacy’s national accreditation standards and professional guidance as well as new roles for all health professionals.  In the state of California, there have also been some exciting opportunities.  SB 493 has expanded the scope of pharmacist practice and created a new Advanced Practice Pharmacist recognition.  In addition, the California State Board of Pharmacy is no longer requiring intern hours in excess of those earned as part of the curriculum.  These opportunities provided a chance to realign our academic calendar.

We also know that while our fees are among the lowest in the state of California, the cost of living in San Francisco is a challenge for many.  To enable us to continue recruiting the most talented and diverse pharmacy students, we wanted to ensure that we make every moment you spend with us count.  By accelerating the trajectory from the classroom to the clinical setting and developing enhanced opportunities for specialty training, we feel that the 3-year Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum will offer great value.  And, of course, there will be strategically placed breaks for rest and rejuvenation!

When will these changes take place?
We anticipate that students admitted into our program to begin in Summer 2018 will be enrolled completely in the Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum.

But the transition from Pathways to Bridges has already started!  We’ve been piloting new courses and teaching methods towards this goal since June 2014.  One example is our Clinical Microsystems Clerkship which partners pharmacy students with medical students to address systems challenges in clinical settings like the UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

As we gather evidence about the successes, we’re committed to bringing these innovations into the program as quickly as possible.  This gives our current students the opportunity to benefit from the Bridges model, too.

Ok, so what’s the downside to all this?
Our target is to train future pharmacists to be therapeutics experts; problem-solvers who can tolerate the ambiguities of real world challenges, who demonstrate self-directed, lifelong learning skills, and who are prepared to lead the charge towards patient-centered quality improvement across the

But as in all areas of life, some people will find this change to be exhilarating while others will find it to be uncomfortable.  Individuals who are open-minded, flexible, and have strong team skills will be more likely to thrive in this environment. We understand that we may lose applications from good students who prefer a more traditional route.

Also, although we’re using strong scientific evidence and expert opinion to guide the development of the Bridges pharmacy curriculum, it’s unlikely we’ll get everything right the first time.  This may be irritating or frustrating to some.  Students interested in gaining expertise in continuous quality improvement models, may find this to be an amazing opportunity, however.  We are looking for pioneers who are ready to embrace change!

How can I get more information about the Bridges Pharmacy Curriculum?Please check out the Bridges Pharmacy website (especially the FAQ section) and sign up to receive our monthly e-newsletter.  As we get closer to launch, we’ll also plan information sessions for prospective students.  Rest assured, we’ve had students involved with this project since the very beginning and this will continue for some time.  We want to make certain you have the information you need to determine if UCSF is a good fit for your professional and personal goals.
healthcare system.

Interprofessional Health Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program

The application deadline for our Interprofessional Health Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program is fast approaching.  For more information on this incredible PharmD-preparation program, please visit our website.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

In Their Own Words: Jennifer

(Note: When Jennifer applied and interviewed to be on the admissions committee, we asked her to describe herself. Her answer: "I'm shy but hardworking."  Indeed, she is on the quieter side, but she's laser-focused in her approach to work and involvement on the Admissions Committee. We can always count on her to tackle admissions responsibilities with thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and of course, a level of seriousness that reflects how important she considers her role.)  

Name:  Jennifer
Year:  Class of 2016
Hometown:  Huntington Beach, CA
Previous institution attended:  UC Berkeley (Go Bears!)
Undergraduate Major:  Molecular and Cell Biology – Neurobiology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
I wanted to be a member of the Admissions Committee because it was an opportunity for me to positively impact UCSF, and thus the future landscape of pharmacy. Also, your fellow classmates can truly define your experience in pharmacy school, especially because they tend to be your main support system during times of high stress; I really wanted to have input on who I thought would be a great fit because these are the people who I will have to rely on as MY future colleagues.

I’ve really enjoyed meeting applicants and seeing how different everyone is in terms of personality, interview style, and life experience. I’m excited for the incoming class!

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
I was surprised by how involved with the process the students actually are and how much my opinions matter! I was also glad to discover that everything Joel has stated in his blog and at info sessions is true; we don’t say one thing and then do something different behind the scenes. For example, we really do look at applicants holistically and your soft skills are just as important as your grades.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
A lot of applicants think that they’ll be more competitive if they can get a letter of recommendation from a well-known individual; however, if that person can’t give specific examples for why you’ll be a great pharmacist, his/her letter doesn’t add much value to your application. Ask for letters from people who know you well and can speak in detail about your skill sets and strengths.

I’ve also seen a decent number of grammatical errors in essays -- so please make sure that you ask a handful of people to proofread your work. This means planning ahead and having your application ready for people to read weeks before the deadline.

For re-applicants, make sure that you’ve shown growth from previous years. We want to know what you’ve been doing differently!

What stands out to you on an application?
I like to see dedication, resilience, and creativity. It’s okay if you weren’t the president of five different campus organizations, but we do notice when you’ve invested time in activities outside of school and that you’re passionate about what you do.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
A weak handshake is my number one pet peeve because it makes it seem as though you don’t want to be there (but if you’re sick, it’s okay to let your interviewer know and skip the handshake entirely!) Keep in mind that a firm handshake shows confidence and can set the tone for the rest of your interview.

My other pet peeve is when a candidate rambles instead of answering a question directly. If you didn’t hear or understand a question properly, you can always ask for clarification.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
Be adaptable, hardworking, innovative, and personable.

Once you’re here, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you know your own capabilities and limitations. Don’t overexert yourself. If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Everyone wants you to succeed and there are plenty of resources to help you meet your goals.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
Network and talk to as many people as you can about the field of pharmacy and about the programs that you're interested in; volunteer/work in a pharmacy-related setting if you can before applying. Pharmacy experience is definitely NOT required to be admitted to the program; however, you should be 100% sure that this is an appropriate career/lifestyle choice for you before you start your applications. Pharmacy school (and the application process) takes a LOT of time and money, so be sure that this is something you are ready to commit to (and make sure you let us know about all of this in your application!)

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Take the time to truly learn why you’re a good fit for a program and why a program is a good fit for you. As I mentioned previously, pharmacy school is a big investment in terms of time and money, so be confident that this is what you want to do for the next 4 years.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I still ask myself this question every day and unfortunately I will never know the real answer. I may have been admitted because I was able to show that I understood the value of pharmacists from multiple perspectives and I saw the opportunity for pharmacists to be in significantly expanded roles in the future. Maybe my application was slightly unconventional. Or maybe they just really liked my 'human condition' essay?

What do you do for fun?
I’ve really been into escape rooms recently. Basically, they lock you and your friends in a room and you have one hour to find clues and solve puzzles to obtain the key to escape. Also, Cal football — I’ve had season tickets all four years of pharmacy school (you'll hear that it’s all about balance).

(To read all previous "In Their Own Words" profiles, click the "committee profiles" label link below!)

Pharmacy Information Days -- headed your way!


Our annual Pharmacy Information Day programs have been planned for several locations across California!

This is a great opportunity to learn more about our PharmD program, including: 
  • Career opportunities in pharmacy: pharmacist panel
  • Overview of the doctor of pharmacy curriculum
  • Why pharmacy? a student pharmacist panel
  • Preparing a competitive application
To learn more about this exciting program (and register to attend) visit our Programs and Events for Prospective Students.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's meet -- VIRTUALLY!

UCSF School of Pharmacy representatives will, once again, "attend" the Virtual Pharmacy School Fair on October 21 & 22. Last year we "met" many terrific prospective students. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions, get information, or just lounge in our "room" -- all in the comfort of your own home!  We expect to staff our room from 8am - 5pm PST.

Register now to tend this free event.

(Note: Dress-code will not be enforced for this event.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Their Own Words: Daniel

(Note: Daniel wrote in his own admissions application: "If there is one quality about myself that I take pride in, it is my industriousness."  I couldn't agree more. He's a workhorse -- constantly willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In many ways, Daniel embodies the idea of "work-life balance" as a student. He plays hard and works even harder. In that respect, his insight and contributions as a member of the Admissions Committee have been incredibly generous and welcomed.)

Name: Daniel
Year: Class of 2016
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
Previous institutions attended: UC Berkeley
Undergraduate Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
Like most prospective students, I was extremely curious as to how the whole admissions process worked -- behind the scenes. Applying to be on the committee had always been an interest of mine ever since starting pharmacy school, and my resolve only strengthened over time. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCSF and I looked forward to not only giving back to the school but also to helping select the next generation of UCSF student pharmacists. What I have enjoyed most about being on the Admissions Committee is learning about why each applicant chose to pursue pharmacy. There are as many reasons for choosing pharmacy as there are applicants, and I have been interested in what drives and motivates each applicant.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
I was slightly surprised by how much influence the students on the admissions committee had with selecting which applicants to admit. I heard from previous committee members that this was the case, but was nonetheless pleasantly surprised to see how much value the faculty placed in the students’ opinions.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
Not getting somebody to proofread their supplemental essays. It’s frustrating to read an otherwise impressive essay that is full of spelling and grammatical errors. Having a reviewer who will give you an honest opinion is important because not only can they catch any errors that you may have missed, but they can also bring in a perspective other than your own, and let you know the strengths and weaknesses of your essays.

What stands out to you on an application?
Well rounded applications stand out to me. A solid application includes all of the following: strong letters of recommendation written by individuals who know the applicant well, thoughtful essays that clearly answer the prompts, and a demonstrated passion for the profession (which is often evidenced by work and/or volunteer experience.) It’s easy to see when an applicant has done a thorough job putting together an application (and, on the flip side, it’s easy to see when an applicant hasn’t done this.)

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
Applicants who give clichéd/unoriginal answers. As committee members, we interview/review several applicants, and I often hear/read the same clichéd answers over and over again.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
There are several, but I’ll highlight a few:
  • Industriousness: Pharmacy school is doable, but it requires a lot of work.
  • Dedication: Pharmacy school is a long road, so it’s important that you be invested in the program to help avoid burn-out.
  • Teamwork: Many projects are done in collaboration with your classmates. Classmates are also an excellent resource; we are all going through the same program, so we help each other out all the time.
What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
Well you’re reading Joel’s blog, so I’ll assume that you’re already using that as a resource. I would also recommend talking to as many people as you can (from pharmacists, to professors, to students) to better learn what to expect from school and to make sure that the profession is right for you. (See below.) The UCSF website is also a great resource.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Make sure that pharmacy is the right profession for you before applying. Pharmacy school is a huge monetary and time commitment, and you don’t want to begin school only to find out after that you don’t want to be there. In addition, if you’ve done your research and know exactly why you want to attend pharmacy school, you will be able to convey this both with your written application and during interviews. It’s always a red flag when I read through an application and then have to ask myself, “Why is this person even applying to pharmacy school in the first place?” That question should be clearly answered throughout the application.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I believe that I was able to communicate through my written application and interview why I wanted to attend pharmacy school and, specifically, UCSF. I backed up this desire with an application that I spent a lot of time and effort trying to make well-rounded.

I was also a re-applicant to the program, which I think demonstrated perseverance. My first application was, shall we say, not so good, so I took great care to shore up its weak points upon reapplying. For example, I actually had someone proofread my essays the second time around. (See above.) I spent the year between college and pharmacy school working as a pharmacy technician, which helped me gain pharmacy experience and only strengthened my application.

What do you do for fun?
I enjoy doing anything sports-related from wrestling to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to playing on an intramural basketball team with my classmates (go TC1s!) I also enjoy exploring the city (oftentimes on foot, as I recently completed the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon.) To replenish some of the calories burned from working out, I’ve also taken up dessert making. I just bought an ice cream maker, and have been experimenting with finding the perfect flavor.

(To read all previous "In Their Own Words" profiles, click the "committee profiles" label link below!)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The PCAT: It's Happening!

So let's just get right to it...

Beginning in 2016 (for students applying for entry in 2017), we will require the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) as part of our admissions requirement.


I'm sure you have many questions.  Since this will be a new requirement for us, we are really interested in hearing what those questions are. (Please please please ask!)  In the meantime, this is a chance to do ANOTHER Q&A! I'll continue to add to the list as questions come in.

What is the PCAT?
From the PCAT website: "The PCAT is a specialized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy colleges. It measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for the commencement of pharmaceutical education. The PCAT is constructed specifically for colleges of pharmacy."

Why is UCSF now requiring this?
We believe it provides us with additional information to help us make admissions decisions. As we incorporate this new requirement, we are very clear that it simply is another piece of information that will guide our decision-making.  An applicant's PCAT score will not replace all other important aspects of a candidacy -- strong communication skills, passion for (and understanding of) the profession, supportive and detailed reference letters, academic preparation that indicates ability to handle rigorous doctoral program, demonstrated leadership, and most important "fit" for our program.  Like any selection process, the more information we have about a candidate, the more confident we are with making a decision. The PCAT provides us with that "more information" piece.

This seems like a sudden decision. Does UCSF always make decisions this quickly?
This was not a quick decision, nor was it an easy decision.  Our admissions committee has been discussing the PCAT for MANY MANY years. In fact, it's been an ongoing discussion for us as long as I can remember.

Will other California schools now require the PCAT as part of their requirement?
I'm not sure. In order to be a prepared applicant for all the programs you are considering, you should check each program's requirement. Approximately 85% of PharmD programs in the United States require the PCAT so this is not a unique or unusual requirement.

I'm applying in 2015 (for entry in 2016), do I have to take the PCAT?
No. Our requirement will begin for applicants who apply in 2016 (for entry in 2017).

Is there a minimum PCAT score UCSF will require/consider/accept?
No.

What is the average PCAT score score for UCSF?
We do not have an average yet, as we have never required this.

What is the range of PCAT scores admitted to UCSF?
We don't have that information as we've never required it. In future years, we'll be able to share this information.

Will a strong PCAT score guarantee my admission to UCSF?
Absolutely not. There are many factors we review as part of admissions to ensure you are academically ready for our rigorous program.

Will a low PCAT score make me an uncompetitive applicant to UCSF?
Not necessarily.  Again, there are many factors we review as part of admissions to ensure you are academically ready for our rigorous program.

How do I send my PCAT scores to UCSF? 
All scores must be reported through Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS). All scores will be provided to us through the PharmCAS application. Please follow the instructions provided by PharmCAS.

Will UCSF accept scores outside of the PharmCAS application?
No.

Can I waive this requirement?
No.

I don't want to take the PCAT. Are there any other standardized exams (such as the GRE or TOEFL) that will take the place of the PCAT?
No.

When do I have to take the PCAT?
Since our application deadline will be November 1, 2016, you will need to take the exam in time to have your scores reported to PharmCAS. We will not accept late or incomplete applications. For testing dates, please visit the PCAT website.

I took the PCAT five years ago. Do I have to retake it?
Yes. The PCAT exam has undergone many changes in the past several years (and continues to evolve annually).  These changes informed our decision to implement a PCAT requirement. We believe the exam has moved more towards assessing qualities we look for in successful applicants. Therefore, we expect our applicants to provide a recent/current PCAT exam score.

I'm taking the PCAT exam twice. Which score will you look at? The first? The last? The highest? An average of the two?
This is a good question. We don't have the answer. Since this is new territory for us, it will be something we continue to look at and perhaps develop a policy, should we need to. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, we encourage you to contact our office.

Are you excited that you no longer have to answer the question "Why doesn't UCSF require the PCAT?"
Yes.

 
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