Pharmacy graduates getting extra experience

University of Rhode Island residency programs help pharmacists focus on specialties

KINGSTON — December 13, 2011 — The learning never stops at the University of Rhode Island, not even after graduation.

URI’s College of Pharmacy sees to that with its sponsorship of several post-graduate residencies, including its newest one, the pharmacy/oncology residency at Rhode Island Hospital.

Open to graduates nationwide, the residency allows licensed pharmacists who have completed a post-graduate year 1 residency — such as the university’s ambulatory care program, administered in partnership with Coastal Medical — to receive training in a hospital and ambulatory care setting focusing on the treatment of cancer patients. The resident also gets experience in an academic setting, partnering with the University to help teach current pharmacy students.

“They get much more focused exposure to a specialty area,” said Kristina Ward, associate professor of clinical pharmacy at URI. “It qualifies someone to go in and join the faculty at an institution, or it allows them to be a clinical pharmacist in an oncology setting.”

The program was launched this year, with Brian Waldron, of Pequabuck, Conn., earning the sole spot in the residency. Waldron, a graduate of Campbell University in North Carolina, was selected from among six applicants, including two URI graduates.

While on rounds or in the clinic, Waldron works closely with the medical staff to assess patients’ medication regimens and make recommendations to ease common side effects of chemotherapy.

He is involved in setting up pharmacy services for drug trials and is working on a research project to assess the effects of a medication on patients with breast and prostate cancer.

Waldron also is reviewing new drugs and helping develop guidelines for their safe use.

On the academic side, Waldron is working with URI faculty to prepare a hypothetical melanoma patient case that undergraduates at the university will be expected to complete during interactive learning sessions.

“It’s been a great experience here so far working with the University of Rhode Island,” the 32-year-old Waldron said. “I went to URI and spent a day there, and I met with various faculty members who explained some of the various opportunities for teaching. I decided to develop a patient case to provide students with a realistic situation they may experience as a clinical pharmacist.”

Andrea Haron, coordinator of the pharmacy/oncology residency program at Rhode Island Hospital, said the academic side of the residency makes it more attractive to candidates.

“It gives more resources for the resident to learn from,” Haron said.

The program also requires dedication. Dealing with the emotional toll that cancer can take on patients and health care professionals is one of the biggest challenges the resident faces.

“We look for people who have an interest in oncology and strong desire to work in that field,” Ward said of the selection process. “It can be very taxing emotionally, so not everyone wants to do it.”

Waldron fit that requirement to a tee.

“The reason I knew I wanted to do oncology and hematology is that, when I was in school, as soon as I started reading about it, I couldn’t put it down,” he said. “It’s an area where a pharmacist can make a really big impact.”

Finding the right candidate isn’t as simple as posting a flier on a bulletin board in the College of Pharmacy’s Fogarty Hall. The school also set up shop last year at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition.

The convention gives doctor of pharmacy graduates one-stop shopping to look for a residency that suits their goals. The pharmacy college set up a booth again this year Dec. 4-8 in New Orleans as it begins recruiting residents for next year’s postgraduate year one and postgraduate year two programs.

While the university encourages its graduates to apply, attending conventions such as the ASHP Midyear and drawing a pool of applicants from around the country helps to raise URI’s profile outside of the region, Ward said.

Waldron, who was looking for a residency in the Northeast, discovered the URI program through the health-system pharmacists’ website.

Haron said the partnership with URI has been beneficial and will continue, perhaps in other specialized areas.

“The program will definitely continue and grow,” Haron said. “ It will grow. We don’t know in what direction — maybe in other residencies in the future. It’s great to have this working relationship with URI on another frontier.”

For more information, call Kristina Ward at (401) 874-7484 or log on to the College of Pharmacy website