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Pharmacy school celebrates White Coat Ceremony

MU Pharmacy
Aug. 19, 2013 @ 12:15 AM

HUNTINGTON -- When Maria Susan Gilliam started working at a pharmacy in Boone County 27 years ago to put herself through college, she knew immediately that she wanted to become a pharmacist.

The only problem was she was going to school to be an elementary school teacher.

"I came from a high school that offered very few advanced math and science courses" Gilliam said. "I was concerned that I wouldn't succeed in pharmacy school."

After 25 years of teaching in Boone County, Gilliam, 48, took the plunge and applied for entrance into the School of Pharmacy at Marshall University. On Sunday, she was joined by 66 other students during the school's second annual White Coat Ceremony at the Pullman Plaza Hotel.

Marshall President Stephen Kopp said the ceremony marks the beginning of a lifelong learning experience in which the students will become the "caretakers for the soul of humanity."

The 67 students, along with 78 of their peers from the inaugural class, also are defining the culture and character of the School of Pharmacy by their performance, he said.

The School of Pharmacy received the green light to start teaching classes in fall 2012 when it was granted pre-candidate accreditation status by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. It was awarded candidate status following a site visit by the council in April. The accreditation status culminates with graduation of the first class in 2016, along with adherence to all of the accreditation standards.

Marshall's pharmacy program is a 2+4 doctoral program, meaning students complete their standard classes during their first two years, then move into the pharmacy program. Unless students choose to take an elective on the main campus, the entirety of their education will be delivered at the Robert W. Coon Education Building next to the VA Medical Center in Spring Valley.

Dr. Kevin Yingling, dean of the pharmacy school, told the students that their education will begin quickly. Many will be assigned to patients within the first five weeks, he said.

"In the next five weeks, you will move from a lay person to a professional," Yingling said. "This movement should encompass all of the humility and compassion that the white coat really stands for."

Gilliam said being accepted into the program is an honor that she does not take lightly. She said she chose Marshall's School of Pharmacy after enrolling in the pharmacy program at the University of Charleston because of the hands-on learning atmosphere offered at Marshall.

"I look forward to soaking up all of these experiences and learning all I can so I can return to my community in Boone County as a pharmacist," she said.

Erik Vint, 25, also is making a career change by entering the School of Pharmacy. Vint already has bachelor's degrees in biology and chemistry and a master's degree in chemistry from Marshall. He worked as a chemist at the Kyger Creek Power Plant just north of Gallipolis, Ohio, but was lured back to school by the potential to improve people's lives, he said.

"I'd like to get into the research and development of new medicines that could lead to the eradication of disease," he said. "Twenty years ago, no one heard of Lipitor, but it's a household name now that is making people's lives better."

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

Class of 2017

Members of Marshall University School of Pharmacy's Class of 2017

Andrew Adkins; Omar Ahmed; Darryl Alarcon; Steven Arnold; Heather Augustine; Courtney Barker; Kathryn Barnett; Brandon Bickford; Rachael Biliter; Rachel Blackburn; Herbert Butterbaugh; Abigail Calvin; Heather Carico; Rong Chen; Bobby Clapp;

Tyler Clay; Alyssa Cottrill; Erick Croaff; Ashley Deaton; Benjamin Fredrick; Amanda Gethmann; Maria Gilliam; Makenzie Green; Rachel Gregory; Jessica Hall; Ann-Elizabeth Hancock; Yanick Hicks; Catherin Higgins; Ian Holt; Bodie Johnson;

Randall Johnson; Luan Le; Eric Lewandowski; Marina Mickael; Taylor Mills; Michael Mioduszewski; Matthew Misorski; Eric Morris; Khoa Nguyen; Harriet Oduro; Ampratwum Owusu; Staci Parsons; Thuy Pham; Ashley Randolph; Ivana Rosiek;

Julia Rounds; Mollie Roush; Sarah Ruggles; Nathan Sansom; Halie Scofield; Justin Simpkins; Eric Slayton; Kelsey Sproles; Amber Tippens; Dylan Tomblin; Nhan Tran; Lydia Vance; Erik Vint; Lauren Waterford; Laura Watson; Caitlin Welch; Krystal Wicker; Jessica Wright; Kolen Yang; Mary Yang; Hannah Yankey.

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