Cross-disciplinary co-op puts pharmacy student on an unexpected career path
If you ever wondered what the advantage is to choosing a pharmacy program located within a large university, Kathryn Prout is the answer.
In July, the Doctor of Pharmacy student co-authored not one, but two, papers in published scholarly medical journals along with her mentor, business professor Tim Hoff.
That’s right, her mentor is a business professor.
Hoff is also a nationally acclaimed expert on healthcare policy and has published extensively on the future of our medical system—which is how Prout got involved with his work.
Prout’s academic journey is instructive for anyone who thinks that a pharmacy degree, however lucrative, puts you on a career path that is narrow or confining.
Both sides of the brain
“I was 18 years old and I thought I might be interested in becoming a pharmacist, but I didn’t want to go to a college that had just pharmacy,” said Prout, PharmD’20. “I had too many other interests, and I’ve always believed that it’s important to stretch your brain.”
“That’s what drew me to Northeastern,” she continued. “They have all these different colleges that would make it possible for me to dip my toe into the water of so many things. I ended up taking just about every art history course the university offers.”
In spite of her many interests, Prout never lost sight of her ultimate goal, which was to pursue a career in pharmacy. But what kind of pharmacy?
That’s where Northeastern’s co-op program came into play, allowing her to complete three paid internships in three different pharmacy settings. Prout did her first co-op in a hospital pharmacy, and her second in a community pharmacy. As she entered the fourth year of the six-year program, it was time to apply for her third co-op. Many of her friends were pursuing positions in the pharmaceutical industry, but based on the advice of her co-op advisor, Mark Yorra, she decided to set a different course. Professor Hoff was looking for a pharmacy student to help him with several healthcare-related research projects.
“This co-op completely opened my eyes to a whole world of research and academia,” said Prout. “Working in the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research pushed me to explore other, lesser-known pharmacy career paths.”
Experience was the key
Prout is living proof of the value of a cross-disciplinary academic experience.
“Even though the two colleges are on the same campus, they have very different cultures,” she said. “In the pharmacy school, we are very disease-state and patient-focused. In my work with Dr. Hoff, there was a greater emphasis on health policy and how the system works from 10,000 feet. I also had an opportunity to write sections of the two papers we published, which flexed the other, more creative side of my brain.”
The first publication, published the July issue of Medical Care, examined the rapid growth of retail clinics in chain stores like CVS and Walgreens. Their study concluded that there has been little research on how well retail clinics balance easy access with the quality of care. The paper notes that most of the available data are generated by the companies themselves, and there has been little investigation of patient satisfaction.
Prout said it was the second publication, published in the July issue of Quality Management in Healthcare, that helped to solidify her dream career path.
The project was designed to explore how doctors are using healthcare teams to improve the quality of primary care. The study used existing interviews with 39 physicians and Prout’s interviews with nine medical assistants.
The study found that physicians use team members to extend their relationship with patients and also to remove routine functions from their plate.
While the findings were valuable, Prout said her research confirmed her passion for direct patient care. This led her to pursue a new and growing career path in the pharmacy field.
“I decided I want to explore the ambulatory care track,” she said. “Pharmacists meet with patients for 30 minutes to an hour and go through all of their medications. There are collaborative practice agreements in which pharmacists can write and modify prescriptions. They are part of the primary care team.”
As she enters the final year of the PharmD program, Prout is eager to explore this field, both during her sixth-year clinical rotations and the year following graduation.
“If you want to go into ambulatory care pharmacy, the jobs require a residency,” she said. “I’m particularly interested in a VA residency program because pharmacists there are already completely integrated into the primary care team.”