New program offers high school seniors and UF freshmen a path to pharmacy school

A new program pioneered by the department of student affairs at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy offers highly qualified high school seniors and UF freshmen the opportunity to streamline their path to pharmacy school.

Annie Alexis headshot
Annie Alexis

The Pharmacy Early Assurance Program, or PEAP, educates participants on pharmacy careers through workshops and shadowing, helps them meet pre-professional coursework requirements and guarantees them an interview for the college’s Pharm.D. program.

“I have learned so much about pharmacy school through the PEAP program,” said Annie Alexis, a biology student at UF. “I am a first-generation student, so I do not have the luxury of depending on my parents to assist me in attending college, let alone graduate school.”

Alexis receives mentorship from the student affairs team, and she’s partnered with a current second-year Pharm.D. student. Through the program, she’s learned about applying for financial aid, networking, writing a personal statement and interviewing.

Valeria Garcia, a pre-pharmacy student at UF, has planned on attending pharmacy school since her senior year of high school, when she was interning with a hospital pharmacy. “Plan ahead,” Garcia advises. “I knew exactly what classes I needed to take to get to pharmacy school before even applying as an undergrad.”

Valeria Garcia headshot
Valeria Garcia

Many PEAP scholars, similar to Garcia, have had their sights set on pharmacy school years before beginning their university studies. For Alexis, her interest arose after her 76-year-old grandmother passed away due to a medication error. She studied the field and developed a passion for educating patients about their medications, testing drug efficacy, monitoring for drug-drug interactions and observing for side effects.

What solidified Alexis’s career path was the UF Summer Health Professions Education Program, or SHPEP, which she attended in the summer of 2018. “As I visited a local compound pharmacy in Gainesville and spoke with UF College of Pharmacy faculty and students, I knew that pharmacy was the perfect profession for me,” she said.

Other PEAP perks include waiving the requirement to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test, or PCAT, for students with a GPA above 3.4, and students admitted to the college will get to choose which of the three campuses — Gainesville, Jacksonville or Orlando — they would like to attend for the extent of their four years as Pharm.D. students.

PEAP accepted any UF student with one year remaining in their undergraduate studies as the program rolled out during its first year. The inaugural PEAP cohort consists of 49 scholars, 25 of which have already been admitted to the incoming class of 2021. In subsequent years, the program will only target high school seniors and UF freshmen.