Community service key part of new pharmacy course

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 2, 2010 – When pharmacy students at the University of Rhode Island reach their junior year, they now have a new hands-on addition to their curriculum.

The new service-learning class, established as a way to familiarize students with health related settings and help them communicate with various patient populations, requires students to volunteer at least 20 hours per semester for the one-credit course, with some opting to do up to 50. This course is in addition to URI 101, the required freshman seminar, which requires a community service commitment, generally about three hours.

While pharmacy students can select a health related organization on their own, most are placed through URI’s experiential education office and volunteer at Horizon Bay Senior Living chain, South Kingstown Senior Center, URI Health Services or the Rhode Island Free Clinic.

Brett Feret, clinical associate professor and coordinator of the program, elaborated on the goals set for the service-learning program.

“The main purpose of this program is to get students involved with patients and different populations that they might not otherwise interact with. Working in senior centers and clinics help to show that patients have specific needs,” says Feret. “It exposes students to real life situations.”

Justin Schumacher, a junior pharmacy student, volunteered with the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps. Some students involved with the reserve corps were responsible for administering H1N1 vaccinations, while others prepared the vaccine syringes. Schumacher worked at various elementary schools around the state.

Schumacher realized the impact on health care through his volunteer work.

“It was a great insight into the emergency preparedness of the state for epidemic outbreaks that may occur in the future,” Schumacher said. “By working at these clinics, I got to see all the preparations behind the scenes. As an intern I could do anything medically-related except administer the vaccine, so I was able to be of assistance in many ways.”