When Daryl Davies, a professor of clinical pharmacy at the USC School of Pharmacy, started a conversation with his students about what they wished to see in their curriculum, he realized they lacked a distinct pathway that led toward pharmacy school. That’s why, Davies created a new minor — science and management of biomedical therapeutics — that focused on training students in the fundamentals of pharmacy as well as introducing them to the wide array of opportunities available in the medical field.
“Many of our students applying to pharmacy school have very strong foundations in organic chemistry and biology and microbiology, but those are all very basic science trainings,” Davies said. “What I recognized was that they struggled when we start talking about bio systems, regulation of multiple systems in therapeutic development or treating patients with therapies.”
Davies wanted to provide undergraduate students interested in going into a health-related professional program a strong background in more targeted subjects such as clinical pharmacology and immunology, which would help them to identify diseases in patients, their causes and their treatments.
“Rather than just being able to recite the Krebs cycle, they get to see the biology and the biochemistry of the disease in the human population,” Davies said. “We cover all aspects of the disease, from the receptor target to how you develop the drug, the different classes of drugs that are available, what are the pharmacological and genomic differences. This is exactly what we teach in our professional schools.”
Davies also hoped to reach out to students who, having started out taking classes geared toward entering medical school, may have changed their minds and decided to pursue a different path within the medical field. The minor will help provide these students with information about other career options within the pharmaceutical industry.
“This is a great way to introduce students who had absolutely no idea of the many different job opportunities that were available within the pharmaceutical industry, in academia, in government that are focused on career drugs and the development of novel therapeutics,” Davies said. “Our goal is to help our students begin to get this rich understanding of the complexities and the networking that’s linked to drug discovery and development so that they can be better prepared regardless of where they go forward.”
Jacqueline Parizher, a sophomore majoring in human biology, decided to participate in the minor program because she believed the courses taught would help give her a leg up during her interviews and application to pharmacy school.
“It’s the first pre-pharmacy type of track that USC has offered,” Parizher said. “They’ve never actually had a program that had specific pharmacology courses, so that was what geared me towards the minor. In the future I want to be a pharmacist, so I think having this knowledge beforehand, before I apply to pharmacy school, will be helpful.”
Nick Tran, a senior majoring in biochemistry, enjoyed the way the classes within the minor allowed students more hands-on approach and also appreciated how the real-world applications of their studies were readily apparent.
“These courses weren’t just, ‘Here’s some information, memorize it, understand it,’” Tran said. “It was more like, ‘Here’s the information, now here’s a clinical situation, this patient has these symptoms, this medication history, so how would you treat them.’”
Tran believes that the minor provides a look into the professional field.
“We’ve also done some direct clinical experience, like being able to measure each other’s blood pressure,” Tran said. “They use an interdisciplinary approach, so it’s a good way to get you out of the bubble of your own field.”
Davies cited the exposure to the outside world as a strength of the program.
“This is exactly what we teach in our professional schools,” Davies said. “They are already starting to think and learn how to distill information as a clinician versus an undergraduate student that is just trying to memorize some scientific endeavor.”