It’s ‘Anchors Aweigh’ for URI pharmacy graduate

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 12, 2011 – While some graduates of the University of Rhode Island will be traveling to Newport to celebrate after receiving their degree, Andrew Benson will be there for a different reason entirely.

Graduating with his doctor of pharmacy degree May 22, Benson of Parsippany, N.J., will report to the Newport Naval station where he will begin his 5-week officer development school as a commissioned lieutenant. Having already received his orders, Benson will travel to San Diego upon completing basic training and start his 3 years of active duty working in ambulatory care centers throughout the San Diego base.

Coupled with his pharmacy studies and interest in the service, Benson applied for the Health Services Collegiate Program, which is designed for students pursuing a degree in health care to become certified to enter the Medical Service Corps.

“I got involved in the program because I wanted to serve and give back to my country. Joining the service as a pharmacist was the best way for me to accomplish my goals and get involved as soon as possible,” said Benson. “The only thing I had to do differently to be in the program was to go to recruiter meetings, participate in the physical fitness assessments, and make sure I maintained my grades.”

Starting his college career, Benson knew he wanted to attend a pharmacy school and applied to various schools around the northeast, but it was URI that felt like a match.

“I came to URI and instantly fell in love with the campus,” he said. “I met a lot of faculty and liked what they were doing, how they interacted with students, and how involved they were with research. It felt like a family here.”

During his college career, Benson has made pharmacy his primary focus.

As part of his internship requirement, Benson worked at CVS pharmacy for a summer on Cape Cod. Although he did enjoy the beach and some sun, he worked upwards of 50 hours per week and found what he liked about practicing community pharmacy.

“On Cape Cod, you deal with populations of very different people; you have the wealthy, the vacationers, and those in poverty. I learned a lot about customer interaction and that everyone is different. It’s best to go in with an open mind and try to help people to the best of your ability,” said Benson.

Along with his internship, Benson has been actively involved in various pharmacy extracurricular activities such as the American Pharmacist’s Association, Phi Lambda Sigma, a pharmacy leadership society, and Kappa Psi, a professional pharmacy fraternity.

Inducted to Kappa Psi in 2005 and taking on numerous leadership roles such as auditor, historian, vice regent and most recently, recording secretary, Benson has attributed his interpersonal skills to the fraternity and its members.

“I learned a lot about networking, motivating people and pointing them in the right direction. Through the fraternity, I saw what it meant to be a leader and wanted to follow in my peers’ footsteps,” he said. “If you’re going to be an officer in the Navy, you need to be a leader. URI has done a great job of shaping me into a leader and developing my personality and professionalism.”

Despite his affiliation with many different campus groups, Benson is most proud of his involvement with Rho Chi, the pharmacy honor society, which inducts the top 20 percent of students during their fourth year pursuing a pharmacy degree. Elected to the presidency by his peers in 2009, Benson was responsible for planning and executing the induction ceremony, representing URI’s chapter at national meetings, and maintaining contact with Rho Chi national headquarters.

Denise Gorenski, coordinator of student affairs, is well aware of Benson’s hard work and enormous academic effort.

“Andrew is a fine example of a student leader. He is a hard worker, extremely disciplined, and a self-starter,” she said. “I have no doubt that he will take the skills he has learned during his education and apply them to his professional career. The Navy is lucky to have such an outstanding person interested in its organization.”

Following his college career, Benson is looking to the future with optimism.

“The Navy offers you a lot of opportunity. They train you to be a leader, but they also put you in situations to learn a lot about yourself and the populations you will be serving. For example, you might be sent to emergency zones like Japan to help with disaster relief,” he said. “At this point I am looking to pursue the Navy as a career and sign a 20-year contract, but if I decide it isn’t the right fit, I always have the opportunity to enter the community pharmacy arena again.”

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.

This release was written by Alicia Blain, an intern in URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing and a public relations major.