Inaugural summer camp introduces high school students to pharmacy

Like many high school seniors, Patrick Lydon is using his final year of high school to prepare for college. He’ll take the SAT in August and is registered for multiple advanced placement classes this fall. While his college destination remains a mystery, he has narrowed his career interests to pharmacy.

Patrick Lydon (Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp)
Patrick Lydon, pictured center, is already looking ahead to attending a pharmacy school someday.

“My mom works as a physical therapist at a Jacksonville hospital,” Lydon said. “She arranged for me to shadow several health care professionals, and I came away really impressed with the role of a pharmacist.”

Lydon was one of 25 high school students from around Florida who attended the inaugural Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp hosted by the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. The week-long camp took place June 12-18 and featured dozens of activities designed to introduce high school students to pharmacy and acclimate them to college life.

“In our experience, when high school students are thinking about potential careers in health care, pharmacy seems to be an area they don’t know much about,” said Tyisha Hathorn, Ph.D., associate director of admissions in the UF College of Pharmacy and a camp organizer. “We felt that exposing high schoolers to pharmacy earlier will give them more options as they think about their careers.”

During the week, the high school students toured local health care facilities, including UF Health Shands Hospital and Baya Pharmacy in Lake City, Florida. They met with inpatient, outpatient and community pharmacists as well as pharmacy researchers and faculty in the college. The interactions helped change many of the campers’ perceptions of pharmacy.

Emmery Harrington (Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp)
Emmery Harrington was one of 25 high school students who participated in the inaugural Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp.

“I have learned a lot about the different career pathways in pharmacy,” said Emmery Harrington, a rising high school senior. “Going into the camp, I thought pharmacists only worked at community pharmacies, but now I realize there are so many different types of jobs.”

Beyond the career exploration, the high school students participated in several hands-on activities focused on pharmacy. A compounding session allowed them to make medication capsules and creams. They toured the college’s museum to learn about pharmacy’s rich history. Team-building activities helped promote the collaborative environment in health care.

The camp also provided a preview of life on a college campus. The students stayed overnight in a dorm and ate meals in a dining hall. They competed in a scavenger hunt to find well-known landmarks around UF’s campus and concluded their week with a stadium tour and dinner at UF’s legendary Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Many of the campers walked away from the experience with new friendships and a better understanding of how to apply to pharmacy school.

“The connections I have made at this camp will help me tremendously when it comes time to apply to pharmacy school,” Lydon said. “Being able to talk with the counselors and camp directors really helped me understand what classes I need to take and the advice I should follow to prepare my pharmacy school application.”

The Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp was sponsored by Walgreens and led by the UF College of Pharmacy’s Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity. Those interested in supporting next year’s Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp can make a donation to the college’s diversity, inclusion and health equity fund.

“The Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp planning team is humbled that the campers were able to join us for a week filled with learning, fellowship, mentorship, inspiration and fun,” said John Allen, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCCCP, FCCM, FCCP, associate dean for diversity, inclusion and health equity in the UF College of Pharmacy. “This program for rising high school seniors was designed to help them engage with pharmacists and researchers to learn more about the diverse field of pharmacy, demystify the college preparation process, and receive mentorship and guidance from current pharmacy students.”

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Gator Pharmacy Exploration Camp 2022