What it's like to go through pharmacy school

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Vinny Rotunno shares what it’s like to go through pharmacy school

Vinny Rotunno made the most of his time as a pharmacy student at Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy. His determination served him well, and he’s preparing to move to his post-graduate residency at The Ohio State University. Recently, we asked Rotunno to reflect on his time in the School of Pharmacy. Check out his responses below.


What was the best part of being a pharmacy student at Concordia? 

Overall, the sense of community among the students and faculty at Concordia will stick with me most. When considering different pharmacy schools, I wanted something that reminded me of my undergraduate college, as it provided accessible professors and a smaller class. I aimed to put myself in a welcoming environment that treated everyone the same, regardless of background or previous experiences in pharmacy.

Fortunately, I found this and more at Concordia, as they embrace everyone’s differences as something that makes them unique. I truly felt that everyone in the School of Pharmacy was invested in my growth and development, which made me even more motivated to perform to the best of my ability. 

RELATED: Hear what a day in the life of third-year pharmacy student Vinny Rotunno is like


What experiences made the biggest impact on your growth as a pharmacy student at Concordia? 

The Applied Patient Care labs (APC) contributed to developing my pharmacy skills the most. This gave me the opportunity to practice communication skills and pharmacist tasks in a learning environment. It was crucial in understanding my areas of growth. The course coordinators and teaching assistants always provided constructive feedback, which helped better prepare me for patient encounters on my pharmacy rotations.

An additional set of courses I would like to highlight is our Pharmacotherapy series. Learning from practicing pharmacists who are experts in their respective fields always provided a sense of passion for each topic. These courses helped build my clinical knowledge base, and they helped me form the ability to think like a pharmacist. Additionally, these courses helped me gain familiarity with clinical practice guidelines. These courses train us how to become experts in ensuring appropriate medication use in various patient populations. 

Besides the didactic curriculum, my experiences during my P4 year on APPE rotations allowed me to apply what I had learned during my first three years of pharmacy school. In doing so, I built the necessary confidence to work independently in a variety of practice settings. I completed a Longitudinal APPE program at one of Concordia’s community partners, Froedtert Hospital. This consisted of rotations in oncology clinics, the cardiovascular ICU, and internal medicine. The program also included experiences in centralized pharmacy operations and with Froedtert’s Director of Pharmacy. Everyone who makes up the pharmacy department at Froedtert creates an exceptional learning environment for students. I’m grateful to have completed a majority of my fourth-year training at this institution. 


What are some of your career goals, and what’s next for you?

I’m always striving to further my clinical knowledge to best serve my patients. Over the next year, I plan to continue this effort as I enter the workforce and pursue BCPS certification. While I enjoy performing clinical pharmacist duties, I’ve become passionate about pursuing a career in pharmacy administration and leadership. I was able to have administrative shadowing and rotation experiences.

These experiences made me increasingly drawn to administration and leadership. For example, I was able to be involved in process and quality improvement projects. Through this field, I’ll be able to impact patient care on a larger scale and collaborate with other pharmacy and healthcare leaders. An additional goal of mine is always to have a teaching component integrated into my professional responsibilities. Whether it’s through precepting my own rotation or being involved in a pharmacy residency program, teaching is important to me. 

Post-graduate residency

I’ll be completing a PGY1/PGY2 Health-System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership (HSPAL) residency program. This will be at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Alongside my two-year residency, I’ll also be completing a Master of Science degree in Health-System Pharmacy Administration at The Ohio State College of Pharmacy. The HSPAL program at OSUWMC emphasizes clinical training for PGY1 pharmacy residents. It encourages their residents to pursue BCPS certification.

My second year will be more focused on pharmacy administration. This focus will provide me with hands-on learning in different areas of administrative pharmacy. Additionally, I’ll gain experience in longitudinal management for the year, overseeing a pharmacy practice area. Ohio State has a strong commitment to developing its pharmacy residents and has a remarkable legacy in developing leaders in the pharmacy profession. Lastly, each component of their HSPAL program aligns directly with my personal and professional interests, and I am excited to get started this upcoming month! 


Why did you decide to become a pharmacist? 

Initially, a career in healthcare first piqued my interest after being diagnosed with a corneal ulcer in eighth grade. The injury resulted in routine appointments with optometrists and corneal specialists. It required numerous around-the-clock eye drops and ointments to aid the healing process. This experience played a huge role in my outlook on life and provided me with a great appreciation for all those who contributed to my recovery.

Eventually, as I progressed through high school, my desire to help others, combined with my interests in chemistry and biology, led me in the right direction. But, I ultimately did not know what field I wanted to enter. My interest in the pharmacy profession started following the second year of my undergraduate studies. My older brother, who is also a pharmacist, got me a job as a pharmacy technician at Walmart for the summer. I was intrigued by the knowledge, skillset, and overall role of a pharmacist in providing patient care. My decision to apply for pharmacy school was solidified. 


What advice do you have for future students considering to attend pharmacy school at Concordia? 

Get involved and build your network. You will hear over and over how small of a world pharmacy is, and it is true. Starting to network early on will build friendships and connections that will last a lifetime. For example, a great way to do this is to join professional organizations and get involved in your community. The more experiences you have, the more you’ll know what you want to do with your career. Then, this will allow you to have the greatest impact on your patients while living a fulfilling personal and professional life.

Another huge piece of advice would be to approach everything with a positive and enthusiastic mindset. If you take a great attitude into everything you do, it’ll spread to your faculty, preceptors, colleagues, patients, and everyone you interact with. Further, don’t think something is too difficult or unlikely to accomplish. Finally, push yourself to your limits and go outside of your comfort zone. This will truly make you the best person you can be. 


Do you want to know more?

If you want to learn more about Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy, visit us here.

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