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School of Pharmacy has 1st ceremony

Aug. 12, 2012 @ 10:44 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Eighty students began their academic march toward becoming pharmacists Sunday during the Marshall University School of Pharmacy's inaugural White Coat Ceremony at the Memorial Student Center.

The ceremony capped off three years of the university preparing for the new doctoral pharmacy program and is the latest chapter in the Tri-State's growth as a medical center.

For the students who comprise the inaugural class, it serves as an opportunity to set high standards for students who will follow their footsteps and help the school on its path to accreditation.

"You are fulfilling a responsibility beyond that of normal students," Marshall President Stephen Kopp said during the ceremony. "You will begin to define the culture and character of the school by your performance."

The School of Pharmacy got the green light to start teaching classes this fall when it was granted pre-candidate accreditation status by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education in June.

Pre-candidate accreditation for the doctoral program extends through June 30, 2013. Another comprehensive on-site evaluation will take place during the upcoming school year. The accreditation process consists of three steps, culminating with graduation of the first class in 2016 and adherence to all ACPE standards.

The School of Pharmacy is located at the Robert W. Coon Education Building on the grounds of the Huntington VA Medical Center in Spring Valley. An ongoing $9.3 million renovation project on the building will result in a 76,000-square-foot learning, research and pharmacy practice facility. Work is on schedule for the building to open in time for the start of the fall semester.

The doctoral program is a two-plus-four, meaning students complete their standard classes during their first two years, then move into the pharmacy program. Unless they choose to take an elective on the main campus, the entirety of their pharmacy education will be delivered at the renovated facility. Of the 80 students in the first class, about half will enter through this track, while the rest have already earned at least a bachelor's degree.

During the ceremony, each member of the class donned a white lab coat and recited the oath of the pharmacist. Kopp urged the students to recite the oath every day during their time in the program and after they become pharmacists.

"You have been selected from a robust pool of applicants," Kopp said. "For that, I congratulate you. But I caution you, make the most of it."

The program will accept 80 students per year and double its faculty size from 15 to 30 within the next three years, said Dr. Kevin Yingling, dean of the School of Pharmacy. Yingling used the Olympics as an analogy for the challenge that the inaugural class has in front of them. Like athletes, they will put in countless hours of preparation. They also have first-rate facilities and excellent faculty to coach them along the way, he said.

"This is the launch of a successful journey in pharmacy education and a career that you have in front of you," Yingling said. "It is a wonderful day."

The 80 students who comprise the inaugural class hail from more than a dozen states. Approximately 40 percent of the class members are West Virginia residents, followed by 29 percent from Kentucky and the remainder from other states including Hawaii, Florida, New York and Texas.

Nick Blanton, 31, of Hazard, Ky., enters the program after getting a bachelor's degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University. It is a special privilege to be in the inaugural class, he said.

"I look at it as a challenge to do our best. Not just to get by but to excel," Blanton said. "The School of Pharmacy is giving us a great opportunity, so we need to do our part and help the school become successful in return."



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