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SKCTC pre-pharmacy curriculum preparing students for success

When Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College developed a pre-pharmacy curriculum over a decade ago few realized how successful the program would become. Over the years, 25 of its students have seen their goal of becoming a pharmacist become reality -- certainly, a dream come true for most.

Southeast has earned the reputation as an institution where its faculty works closely with students who show aptitude for careers as pharmacists, guiding and nurturing those through the pre-pharmacy curriculum administered and taught by educators within the colleges Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. A division headed by Professor Pat Scopa.

SKCTC students who have gone through the three-year curriculum and earning the Associate in Science Degree, have moved forward to graduate, many with distinction, from colleges of pharmacy at the University of Kentucky, the University of Cincinnati, East Tennessee State University, the Appalachian College of Pharmacy and Samford University.

Dr.Wheeler Conover, chief academic officer and a tenured professor, who, upon his arrived at Southeast in 1996, began working with other faculty to develop a curriculum to aid students who had aspirations of one day enrolling in pharmacy school.

We began putting together a curriculum after discovering quite a few of our students had as their goal to become working pharmacists and wished to apply for entry into a college of pharmacy, he said.

Then, when the Appalachian College of Pharmacy in nearby Grundy, Va., opened it doors a few years back, it became much more important for us at Southeast to begin developing an organized program to help our students get accepted into a pharmacy school. We also worked with Appalachian College of Pharmacy to develop a preferential admissions agreement.

He noted that SKCTC students in the pre-pharmacy curriculum are required to take a demanding yet stimulating array of courses needed for entry into pharmacy school. Courses, he said, are offered in molecular biology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, general and organic chemistry, general physics, college algebra and calculus among others. Course work is offered in a tradition classroom setting as well as online.

Students attending Southeast have come to realize the college is an incubator for aspiring pharmacists, having produced over 25 with many of those now working within the region, he said.

We have the curriculum in place that well prepares those who wish to one day apply for acceptance into pharmacy school, said Conover. Students can stay close to home and oftentimes, dual credit courses taken in high school can be transferred to Southeast. Once enrolled, students quickly discover how much the faculty truly wants each and everyone to become a success. Those who go through the pre-pharmacy curriculum usually stay three years and graduate with the associates degree, preparing them for entry into a college of pharmacy where they will likely spend an additional three years. We do seem to have a very good track record for success.

Elizabeth Balenovich Hubbs, pharmacist and manager of the department at a local Wal-Mart, enthusiastically endorses Southeasts pre-pharmacy curriculum.

I have nothing but good things to say about the college and the exciting courses I was able to take that helped me become prepared for easy- entry into the University of Cincinnatis College of Pharmacy, she said. I was well prepared and received outstanding instruction and much guidance from those at Southeast.

Elizabeth received her pharmacy degree in 2005 and was awarded the PharmD or doctorate. Our local college (Southeast) is a jewel. I am continually telling those who want a quality higher education to check it out!

For Tim Lewis, Southeast proved to help him make the transition from the U.S. Marine Corps., where he served a tour of duty in Iraq, to academia.

He enrolled with the notion of perhaps pursuing a career in pharmacy. That dream was realized this spring when he was a member of the graduating class of the East Tennessee State Universitys College of Pharmacy.

I enjoyed my time as a student at Southeast, he said, I was able to receive quality instruction from the caring faculty who worked hard to lead me toward reaching my lifes goal, my dream.

He said he especially liked the teacher to student ratio enjoyed by those who attend SKCTC, and the cost of his education was most affordable. He was also able to remain close to his Harlan County home.

It was a winning proposition for me -- my involvement with Southeast. I would certainly do it all over again.

For Trae Winkler, a pharmacist working in Pineville, the pre-pharmacy curriculum offered by the college was a wonderful experience.

Southeast allowed me to get all the pre-requisites out of the way before I was accepted into the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford, he said.

The courses I took at Southeast challenged me and were taught in a setting where students are important. I enjoyed the small class size and have good memories of my time spent there. Southeast helped me reach my lifes goal of becoming a pharmacist and of being able to work in my home area -- to be of service to the community.

For those interested in learning more about the SKCTC pre-pharmacy curriculum, contact Dr. Wheeler Conover at 606/589-3038.