By Walter L. Johnson, II
Brett Daniel is among six students making history in the Albany area.
He’s among the first six students to enroll at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy clinical campus at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
UGA officially opened the doors to its Albany facility in April 2011, with the students starting their third year of study on Aug. 13.
Being an Albany native made it an easy decision for Daniel to enroll at the Southwest Georgia clinical campus.
“When the University of Georgia had offered the students the option of coming into the third and fourth year of pharmacy school, (enrolling at Albany) kind of worked out for me, I had family (here) already,” Daniel said. “(My family) already owned a house in the area, (so) it was just a perfect fit for me.”
A former engineer, Daniel saw a lot of things that brought him to pursue a pharmacy career.
“Pharmacy as a career really has a lot of things that are attractive about it,” said Daniel. “Number one, the demand for jobs and availability is pretty tough in the market right now. Daniel added: “There are still plenty of areas for pharmacists to work with in the retail setting, or in the hospital environment, or even in home care.
“It’s just a good opportunity from that perspective, and it doesn’t matter really where you are geographically, you always have the same opportunities in moving from one place to another, so it’s really a strong field because of that.”
The pharmacy program at UGA is for four years, with the first two years spent on the main campus in Athens, with the final two years being spent at a separate site.
In addition to Albany, the UGA College of Pharmacy also has campuses in Augusta and Gwinnett County. It had its first graduating class in 1908.
Daniel has already earned some hands-on experience during his brief stint on the Albany campus. “Recently, we had the opportunity to visit a clinic, and work with patients monitoring their therapy, and make sure dosage is appropriate, and monitoring any interactions that may cause more bleeding.
“We’ve also had a couple of opportunities to go over to the hospital, and make rounds with some of the clinical pharmacists, and get good exposure to real world environments for some critical care patients,” Daniel said, “and just kind of getting exposure to charting and practicing in the hospital, and things to look for.”
The small number of students, as well as the short walking distance to Phoebe, allows the students to gain such real world experience, Khan said.
“They interact with medical students and clinical faculty,” said Khan, “so that they know how to interact with the physicians in the community.
Although the Southwest Georgia campus has only been open almost a year and a half, assistant dean Iqbal Khan has been in Albany since 2005. He says that Phoebe’s emphasis on education was a major factor in locating a campus here.
“Albany has a tremendous amount of clinical expertise,” Khan said. “The hospital here is a big supporter of education.
“I think we’re very fortunate to be affiliated with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, where the leadership is very pro-education,” added Khan. “They really want to encourage people to come, and see what a great hospital we have here, and what a wonderful educational team is here.”
That’s a fact that’s not lost on Daniel. “I think both (UGA) and partners with Phoebe in this case, have done a really nice job of making it attractive for the students, in that we have to access to all of the same lectures, and except, maybe even more in this case, more of a one-on-one environment with the professors in Albany, because it’s really a smaller class size.
“We still get all of the same lectures that we would get being (on) the Athens campus, but we get a lot of one-on-one attention with the teachers (if) we need it.
There were other advantages to being enrolled in Albany, instead of Athens, Daniel explained. “The other thing about it is, being in Albany, we have access to the hospital here at Phoebe, and we’ve already been to several times to some of the different units there, where we able to get some experience in the hospital, that we may not have gotten being on the large campus in Athens, because there’s just so many students, there’s not enough facilities there maybe, or not enough spaces in hospital to take all of the students.”
A lack of licensed, qualified pharmacists in the southwest Georgia region also brought about the need to place a campus in Albany, Khan said. “The idea is to expose our students to this Southwest Georgia (campus), where we lack pharmacists, as well as medical physicians,” said Khan.
“Our aim is to expose these students at an early stage of their developments, so that they can see the area, and hopefully, when they are looking to choose a place where they would like to practice, they will come and settle in (the Albany) area. “That is mainly one of our goals, to have students interested in coming to Southwest Georgia, and establish their practices, both in medicine and pharmacy.”
So, what does Daniel plan to do after he graduates from the UGA College of Pharmacy? “Right now, I’m undecided, whether I want to work in the retail or the hospital environment,” Daniel said. “Hopefully, after the fourth year, where we get a chance to do clinical rotations, and will work for four weeks at a time at different sites, for the entire year, and we’ll pick different spots, in retail pharmacies, or in different departments of the hospital, maybe pediatric care, or oncology care, or maybe a critical care rotation, and all those different things, hopefully, will give me some exposure to help me decide which one I like the best.”
And what advice would Daniel give to other aspiring pharmacists and pharmacy students? “I would encourage anyone to come visit the (clinical campus), as far as the students interested in coming to Albany,” he said. “I think that (UGA and Phoebe) have done an outstanding job with the facilities we have, with the computer lab here, the student lounge.
“We have our own classroom, in the old Albany Middle School building, and we have several instructors who are based here out of Albany, and I just really think the University of Georgia especially has done a nice job of, with preparing the students to transition from student life to actually get out and work and be prepared for the real-life practice of pharmacy.”
On The Web: University of Georgia College of Pharmacy—http://www.rx.uga.