College of Pharmacy inaugural class begins senior internships

May 17, 2010

Although still a year away from earning their PharmD from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College of Pharmacy, many students are currently in the process of leaving Hilo and won’t return until they graduate in spring 2011.

Students who began their quest in 2007 are set to begin the final stage to earn their doctorate: Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE), also called “rotations.” And for the first time, several will be earning their experience in Alaska.

“Including Alaska as a rotation site opens doors for our students to get training unlike they’ve gotten so far,” said Dean John M. Pezzuto, who, along with Dr. Carolyn Ma, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, and other CoP faculty and staff, met in March with members of the Southcentral Foundation from Anchorage to begin the arrangements. “We’re looking forward to working with pharmacy professionals in Alaska, as well as on all four major islands of Hawaiʻi, Kaua`i, Maui, Oʻahu. Students also have opportunities to get experience in Guam, American Samoa and Saipan, as well as many states throughout the mainland. It promises to be a well-rounded final year for our students.”

APPE for the fourth-year students begins in the summer after their third year of pharmacy school and includes a minimum of 1,440 hours of pharmacy experiences as required by ACPE, the national accreditation board that oversees pharmacy schools.

Students will participate in six different types of six-week rotations. Mandatory rotations include hospital practice, acute medicine, ambulatory care clinic and retail practice. The student may take an additional two electives to fulfill the APPE requirements.

“For the first time in their academic career, students are really on their own when they leave for these senior rotations,” said Dr. Lara Gomez, clinical education coordinator for Pharmacy Practice. “Preceptors, who are pharmacy professionals in the field, are there to offer guidance, but this experience helps students utilize drug information and clinical skills. It prepares them for the real world.”

The students will have more patient interaction during these experiences, she said, and they will perform many of the tasks that will be required once they become licensed pharmacists. That includes filling prescriptions up to the final check, giving immunization, taking part in projects and interacting with other students in the health care profession.

After completing their rotations and receiving their Doctor of Pharmacy at the May 2011 UH Hilo commencement, the graduates must pass a national exam and register in the state where they will begin their professional careers.

For more information about the College of Pharmacy and the experiential program, see or call (808) 933-2909.

See more news from 2010.