First students selected for USF’s new Pharmacy program

Classes for the charter class of 50 start this fall

Eager to blend the detailed science he liked in his chemistry courses and the patient interaction he wanted in a career, Mark LaBossiere had no problem deciding to apply to USF’s College of Pharmacy.

Sure, he would be part of the charter class and take a chance on a program with no track record. But that intrigued him all the more: an opportunity to chart a new course for himself, as well as help define a new program.

Little did he know that he would not only make the cut and be accepted into the inaugural class, but he would be the very first student asked to join.

Mark LaBossiere, USF Health’s first pharmacy student

“I took the call while I was at work,” LaBossiere said.

“Mrs. (Heather) Petrelli (assistant dean for Student Affairs and Assessment) had some fun taking her time telling me that I’d been accepted. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the news. I have found that my learning is much better when it’s done in a self-directed style, which is Dr. Sneed’s approach to this program. This is going to be an awesome experience.”

For more detail about how Mark’s very important phone call went, click here.

Building an innovative program

The USF College of Pharmacy was established in 2007. From the outset, founding Dean Kevin B. Sneed, PharmD, set out to build a program unlike that at typical pharmacy schools. USF’s program will be a pacesetter in pharmacy curriculum and clinical experience, he said, incorporating the 360-degree approach that, although drug research and treatment are sciences, every patient is a unique individual with distinct needs.

“We are charting new territory in pharmacy education,” Dr. Sneed said.

Dr. Kevin Sneed, dean of the new USF College of Pharmacy

“Our student pharmacists will be trained to participate as effective and integral members of an inter-professional healthcare team. Students are being handpicked for qualities that go beyond test scores and grades.”

LaBossiere was one of 38 students who applied to the College of Pharmacy during the early action application phase, which means they applied directly to the school as their school of choice (as opposed to multiple schools through a national application process) – basically promising they would not apply anywhere else during this early period.

Dr. Sneed said this first batch of students absolutely matches his expectations.

“All of the first students we interviewed were top candidates and have the collaborative, creative, energetic traits we want in this program,” he said. “Mark’s interview scores were strong and his inter-personal qualities were stronger still. That combination made him our first.”

New interview process helps define candidates

In keeping with the innovative aspect of the new pharmacy school, the interviewing process all candidates face is unique, as well.

Called multiple-minimum interview (MMI), the process is a series of seven stations, each with one interviewer, in this case a pharmacy faculty member, who asks a specific non-academic question that would elicit answers that show certain traits. The characteristics are assessed and given an aggregate interview score.

“This interview process is fairly new and aims to find softer skills, like teamwork and inter-personal aptitude, which not only indicate a likelihood for success in our program, but for success as pharmacists, as well,” said Nazach Rodriguez-Snapp, director of admissions for the USF College of Pharmacy.

A bit like speed dating, the interview works like this: A 2-minute pre-station encounter, when the applicant logs in, sees the question and has time to collect his or her thoughts before facing the interviewer; a 5-minute encounter with the interviewer; and a 3-minute post encounter, during which time the interviewer completes the evaluation and scoring rubric.

This is completed seven times for seven questions from seven faculty evaluators.

“The benefit of this format is that the same question is asked of all applicants the same way, providing consistency,” Rodriguiez-Snapp said.

LaBossiere said he liked the interviews, too.

“Seeing the question beforehand really helped a lot because it allowed me to take some of the nerves out of the process and think about my answer,” he said.

“It wasn’t so much about my scores, but who I really am. I also appreciated seeing multiple faces with all the questions. It was a good interaction.”

As the interviews were scored and candidates were ranked, six students were chosen as the first to be accepted: Mark LaBossiere, Semyon Aminov, Phuong Le, Aakash Patel, Bradley Tillander, and Minal Shah.

Charter pharmacy students include, from left, LaBossiere, Phuong Le, and Bradley Tillander.

After the first sixThe College of Pharmacy is currently interviewing candidates who applied through the regular decision phase, which is when students applied to multiple schools. Successful candidates from this phase will be asked to join the inaugural class, which is expected to total 50 students.

Dr. Sneed said he is eager for the first day of classes.

“The USF College of Pharmacy is poised to propel the pharmacy profession forward,” he said.

“It’s never been about us, really, but about the students and the patients they’re going to serve in the future. I look forward to our future students, faculties, and partners as we transform the DNA of healthcare.”

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications