- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

BALTIMORE (AP) | Seventy pioneers began pharmacy school at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in August — the first class of the first school of pharmacy at an American women’s college.

Notre Dame is only the second school in the state to train pharmacists.

One of those students, Patrick Donohue, left his job at a San Diego drug company to study for a career that seemed recession-proof.

“I really like the idea that we’re the first class, that we’ll be taking a leadership role,” Mr. Donohue said at orientation. “Of all the schools I looked at, this one seemed to have a fresh perspective. Patient care is not all about counting pills, and they stressed that more than others.”

Men make up 41 percent of the class. The four-year curriculum focuses on women’s health issues. The school will emphasize training students to serve patients, whether at hospitals or grocery-store drug counters.

“It’s all about caring for patients,” said Anne Y.F. Lin, the school’s dean, in orientation remarks. “It’s not about shoving facts into your brains. We are about taking care of people.”

A wrong answer on a test shouldn’t be seen as a threat to a student’s grades, Miss Lin said.

“It is about whether that mistake you make will hurt someone,” she said.

The husband of Mary Pat Seurkamp, Notre Dame’s president, offered a casual pitch for the program a few years ago. The college was so good at producing teachers and nurses, he said, so why not pharmacists?

The idea so intrigued Mrs. Seurkamp that she studied it and learned about the growing market for pharmacists. With only one school of pharmacy operating in Maryland (at the University of Maryland at Baltimore), she agreed with her husband’s hunch that Notre Dame could fill a niche.

“I got a vision, but it took me some time to get there,” Mrs. Seurkamp told the initial class.

The university hired Miss Lin, who had been dean of Midwestern University’s College of Pharmacy in Arizona, to start the school two years ago. Most of its 26 faculty members were in place a year ago.

Notre Dame got nearly 500 applications for its first class.

Julie Gibbons, 24, had been a pharmacy technician at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She wanted to get more training without moving and liked the idea of helping to shape a new program.

“I was impressed with the sense that they wanted to change the way pharmacy is taught,” she said of the Notre Dame professors she has met. “They seemed not as much focused on book learning as on getting us into clinical settings right away so we can get a more hands-on experience.”

Many pharmacy programs do not have students work with patients until the second or third year. But Miss Lin said Notre Dame students will help deliver medicine to seniors in nearby high-rises in their first year.

“From all the schools I applied to, this is the one that will give you hands-on experience in the first year,” said Ali Tharoo, who moved from Orlando, Fla., to attend.

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