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Pharmacy Preceptors: Teaching the Art of Medicine to the Pharmacists of Tomorrow


The education of any health care professional is two-fold: Rigorous scholarly study combined with hands-on training. Marshall B. Ketchum University’s College of Pharmacy offers students carefully crafted experiences in both of these components with its advanced academic training in the classroom and broad array of top-notch preceptors in the field who teach students the hand-on craft of patient care.

Preceptors play an unparalleled role in a students’ education, offering a real-time glimpse into their chosen profession and an opportunity to practice the concepts and skills they have learned in the classroom. The preceptors give students their time and expertise amid the demands of their own rigorous schedules. They do this to give back to the profession and help build a strong cadre of pharmacists for the future.

MBKU recognizes both the sacrifice the preceptors make and the key role they play in advancing the profession. “Pharmacists in the field who are looking for a rewarding challenge should consider acting as a preceptor,” says Monica Trivedi, PharmD, Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs at MBKU’s College of Pharmacy.

“Our preceptors are individuals who are working to advance the profession,” says Dr. Trivedi. “They want to give back.”

That’s certainly the case for Martin Breen, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacy Manager at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton. Dr. Breen offers his services as a preceptor for MBKU’s College of Pharmacy. He says his motivation for working with the students is two-fold.

“First, precepting is a form of “paying it forward” in the sense that I am repeating the act of “giving back” to the profession in the same manner that those pharmacists did who took the time and energy to precept me as student years ago,” says Dr. Breen. “Hopefully, the students whom I precept will return the favor once they are practicing pharmacists.”

“Second, having students in the department and hospital energizes the staff to practice at their best and highest level. Ultimately, patient care is optimized as a result,” he adds.

Dr. Trivedi constantly reaches out into the community to assemble a strong team of preceptors for pharmacy students. She sees first-hand the strong impact the preceptors have on the education of student pharmacists in residence.

“Working with the preceptors helps the students reinforce what they’ve learned in the classroom,” says Dr. Trivedi. “This is the part where they actually get to see it and do It … It helps them connect the dots … It gives them the ‘aha’ moment.”

In the summer after their first year, pharmacy students at MBKU’s College of Pharmacy spend a four-week block in an introductory pharmacy practice experience. Half of the students will practice in a hospital setting and the other half will practice in a community pharmacy. The summer after their second year they will reverse settings and practice where they did not work the previous summer.

By their fourth year, the students’ entire education is spent in rotations of six, six-week blocks. Students must complete blocks in a community, hospital, medical acute care setting and an ambulatory setting. The remaining two blocks are electives and may be spent in settings of students’ choosing such as a compounding pharmacy, transplant pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, managed care setting or long-term care setting.

“In their fourth year they get a little more freedom to explore their unique areas of interest,” says Dr. Trivedi.

Dr. Breen understands what the experiential programs give the students and says he hopes the students working at St. Jude can “continually apply and refine their clinical therapeutic knowledge and skills.” Students also are working in an interprofessional setting, learning to work in a team.

“In addition, by being part of a large department, students learn that they are an important part of the health care team,” Dr. Breen adds. “Learning how to be a productive member of a team is a foundational job skill that will serve them well regardless of their practice setting.”

Andrew Kaewtavon, College of Pharmacy, ’20, says he places immeasurable value on his experience as a student pharmacist on rotation at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange County, a sister hospital to St. Jude.  Being a part of a team was a critical element of that experience, he adds.

“They give students the opportunity to do hands-on work,” says Kaewtavon.

Kaewtavon says he worked as a pharmacy technician before enrolling in MBKU’s College of Pharmacy, so he had some familiarity with “real-life” pharmacy practice before his rotation at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Still, the rotation allowed him to observe and assist in settings that were unique to him.

Kaewtavon says one memorable experience of his rotation was working in an IV compounding room.

“There’s a protocol to being in that room … you have to put on a gown, face mask, gloves,” he says.

Kaewtavon also says he witnessed a medical team working together as a patient went code blue due to a cardiac arrest. He was able to see how pharmacists work in an emergency setting, putting together the needed medications.

Kaewtavon believes the preceptors at the different sites are “giving students something that can never be taken away.”

“The information we get in the classroom would be useless without being able to work with other health care professionals and these preceptors allow us to do that,” Kaewtavon adds.

Dr. Trivedi also knows the incredible value of the gift preceptors give to students. She and others at the College of Pharmacy work hard to find additional preceptors, which is challenging given that there are 13 pharmacy schools in California – all looking for preceptors. She said that she and others in the department constantly put the call out for new preceptors at conferences, national meetings, seminars and local professional groups.

Dr. Trivedi says what preceptors give students and the profession is unquantifiable. Not only do students learn clinical practices through hands-on training, but they “gain respect for the profession and more understanding of the profession,” she says.

Dr. Breen understands the value of what he passes on to students. He recounts a story of one of his students – the son of a critical care nurse – as an example of the cyclical nature of giving back.

“The student was attending a school of pharmacy that we did not have an affiliation with at the time. I agreed to accept this student because of my association with his mom, the nurse. Now I have worked at St. Jude since the early 1980’s, so I remember clearly when my nursing colleague went out on maternity leave to deliver my future student,” says Dr. Breen.

“This student has since joined our pharmacy staff. In fact, he is one of our best pharmacists. He may actually assume a management role at some point in the future. So precepting students can also be a form of succession planning,” he adds.

Preceptors are role models and committed health care professionals whom Ketchum students depend on to help develop the critical skills required of them. Join us today by emailing