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College of Pharmacy wins national honors in spring 2024

Partnership with high school health academy honored as one of top eight innovative programs in the nation.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 

Student Pharmacists with awards at annual national meeting

Lipscomb’s College of Pharmacy is no stranger to the awards podium at the 2024 national American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting & Exposition. 

This year, however, the college was especially proud to have one of its long-time service programs honored as one of the nation’s top eight contenders for the Innovative Programming Award, beating out 28 universities in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.

Celebrating 10 years of service this year, the college’s partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools’ John Overton High School's Health Science Academy, in which students teach a pharmacy technician certification course to high schoolers, won the APhA-Academy of Student Pharmacists (ASP) honor for Region 3.

Pharm.D. students Ezra Docks and Mikayla Morrow, both class of 2025, earned the award for their presentation, “Student Pharmacist-led Delivery of a Pharmacy Technician Certification Course for Local High School Seniors,” which highlighted the Overton students’ certification exam pass rate that is ahead of the national average as well as the seven Overton alumni who have earned their Pharm.D.’s from Lipscomb.

But that was just one of the honors noted at the national meeting in March. Lipscomb’s APhA-ASP chapter also won:

  • AAA Division Chapter Achievement Award, besting 45 other schools;
  • First runner-up in the Operation Immunization category, a competition for the most community vaccinations and public health education that Lipscomb students have routinely won or placed in over the years; 
  • The Outstanding Dean Award for Dean Tom Campbell;
  • The Back the PAC competition, raising more money than any chapter in the country;
  • A regional award in the Operation Reproductive Health category; and
  • Student pharmacist Seth Meyer (Class of 2027) competed in the national patient counseling competition as one of the top ten finalists in the country.
Current pharmacy faculty Justin Kirby at inaugural Overton class in 2015

Current pharmacy faculty Justin Kirby, assistant professor, worked with the inaugural pharmacy technician class at Overton class (pictured here) in 2015.

Innovative Program Award

This is not the first time the Overton pharmacy technician course has been honored for excellence. In 2015, after its first year, the program won the the Academies of Nashville 2015 Academy Partnership of the Year: Health & Public Service Award from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

It was also featured on Nashville’s WPLN public radio as well as the National Public Radio show “All Things Considered” as an innovative example of bringing vocational education back into America’s high schools.

The course is a year-long pharmacological sciences course developed and taught by Lipscomb fourth-year pharmacy students. In the early days, Lipscomb’s students completed one of their advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs) by teaching the course, but today the student pharmacists serve on a volunteer basis through coordination by the APhA-ASP chapter.

In every year, the high school students have learned everything they need to pass the pharmacy technician exam for a chance at immediate employment upon graduation.

“It’s exciting that we are seeing the fruit of our students going through this program,” said Denise Wigginton, who has taught the course for Overton for all 10 years. “We are still having students being accepted into the pharmacy program at Lipscomb and we’re starting to see them go out and have careers. They found they had a skill set that they could utilize, whether it is pharmacy work or working in some other health care area.”

Wigginginton said an average of 20 students a year take the course. She knows of former  students who have gone on to medical school, become an optometrist or gone into other health care fields.

One Overton graduate, Muna Said (Pharm.D. ’23), earned a dual degree: a Doctor of Pharmacy and a Master of Health Care Informatics, from Lipscomb and was selected for a post-doctoral fellowship at InpharmD, a company on the cutting edge of technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide evidence-based drug information responses for providers.

Muna Said and her classmates in 2015 learning a new skill from a Lipscomb professor

Including Said (center, right), six students from the Overton pharmacological sciences course have come to Lipscomb since 2015 to earn their Pharm.D. degrees and enter the health care field.

The College of Pharmacy became involved with the Healthcare Academy at John Overton High School through a partnership with the PENCIL Foundation of Nashville, said Assistant Professor Justin Kirby, who was one of the teachers in the program’s first year when he was a Lipscomb student himself and still makes his mentorship available to Overton students today. 

Some Overton students in 2014-15 had the chance to shadow Kirby at Perkins Drugs in Gallatin, Tennessee. They made trips to various pharmacy locations such as the Walgreens Infusion Center, Southern Hills Hospital and Lipscomb’s sterile compounding lab, and learned from various hands-on experiences in the classroom.

Over the years, Lipscomb’s students have worked with Wigginton to develop class content, presentations, study guides and lab exercises. At points during the decade they have prepared hands-on activities illustrating specialized pharmacy skills in the areas of medication compounding, counting and liquid measurements, held a “dispensing day” where students went through the entire process of dispensing a drug with a fake patient; visited Lipscomb’s  compounding lab where they practiced “garbing up” to enter the sterile space; and held a mock pharmacy board meeting with Lipscomb pharmacy administrators.

“I am obviously very proud of the work the students have put into it,” said Kirby. “It’s fulfilling from a personal and professional level. Personally I love the mentorship aspect that I get to provide to our students and that the students then provide to the high school students.”

Today's Overton students visiting a compounding lab

Today's Overton students visit Lipscomb’s compounding lab where they practiced “garbing up” to enter the sterile space.

Ezra Docks

Ezra Docks

Each Lipscomb student who participates tells the Overton students how they came to pursue a pharmacy degree, so the high schoolers can see people close to their age actually pursuing the pharmacy pathway, said Wigginton. 

“Their experiences are all so different, and it is valuable for my students to see that and to realize that a career path is not always so linear,” said Wigginton.

Docks, who is the APhA-ASP chapter chair for the Overton program, said that the program is especially valuable in today’s job market as there has been a dire shortage of pharmacy technicians since the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We are helping give a new perspective on pharmacy and increase the pass rate on the pharmacy technician license exam,” said Docks. “The national pass rate for tech exam is about 70%, and the Overton pass rate is 82.6%.”

Audience reaction at Docks’ and Morrow’s presentation at the regional meeting was very positive, said Docks. “People really wanted to know about the student follow-up, such as what the students are doing after graduation? What was the time dedication for us? There was a lot of interest,” he said.

Kirby said that they have also been contacted by other high schools interested in replicating the Lipscomb model.

Operation Immunization Award

Each year, Lipscomb’s award-winning APhA-ASP chapter administers 3,000-6,000 vaccines through Bison Flu Fest, off-campus health fairs and extracurricular activities. The 2024 national runner-up award was bestowed for administering 4,360 flu and Covid-19 vaccines to Middle Tennesseans

The chapter has won regional or national awards in this program for eight of the 13 years it has participated. It won the association’s Operation Immunization first place crown for vaccinations given in the 2020-2021 school year and the 2018-2019 school year, and was second runner-up in 2016-2017. The chapter has won the regional award for Operation Immunization four times.

In 2023, the College of Pharmacy provided its 100,000th flu shot since the establishment of the college in 2008.

Chapter Achievement Award

Lipscomb’s students also won the AAA Division Chapter Achievement Award. This award was established in 1974 to recognize outstanding activities of APhA–ASP chapters at the schools and colleges of pharmacy in the United States and Puerto Rico. 

The award is designed to recognize superior programming among chapters that envision the future of pharmacy by creating opportunities for student participation. Winning chapters embrace the core ideas of APhA–ASP’s mission to create new standards of leadership, professionalism, membership, patient care and legislative advocacy among student pharmacists nationwide.