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August 27, 2010

ULM premiers “2010 Pharmacy Boot Camp”

It’s no secret the U.S. military insists every one of its recruits to various branches of service undergo the rigors of boot camp – several weeks of intensive mental and physical training that moves men and women out of their old civilian lives and into a new life in the military.

In a similar way, faculty and staff at the University of Louisiana at Monroe College of Pharmacy decided incoming first-year pharmacy students would benefit from “Pharmacy Boot Camp,” a week packed with vital information and test-taking challenges, but devoid of the three-mile hikes and shaved haircuts that make their military counterparts so notorious. The boot camp was also started as a complement to new core curriculum requirements at the College of Pharmacy, and is just one more example of how the university starts waking up well before the first classes begin in late August.

Held Aug. 16-20 at ULM's Bienville building, the boot camp was designed to enlighten new students about the rigors of pharmacy school while also inspiring them to perform as well as possible once the new academic year gets underway. Perhaps just as important, the week-long boot camp offers a prime opportunity for students from various regions to bond and learn from one another.

“I’ve noticed a difference today compared to earlier this week,” said Mary Caldwell, director of the College of Pharmacy Office of Student and Professional Affairs, during Friday’s barbecue luncheon at Bienville. “These students will be spending the next four years of their lives together. They really do become like one big family.”

Ericka Morgan of Cincinnati; Mariam Saadat of West Monroe; Cali Larson of Mangham; Caleb Prestenbach of Napoleonville; and Jason Barron of Alexandria, who shared a table at the luncheon, exemplify the type of bonding that occurs in spite of being from disparate regions. All agreed the boot camp was largely helpful, though some sessions were more informative than others.

“Taking the tests was probably the most beneficial to me,” said Saadat, as the others nodded in agreement.

Caldwell and Assistant Professor Michelle Zagar coordinated the day-long sessions for roughly 75 new students, which will be refined following current-year student feedback and offered again next year.

This year’s boot camp included, among other things, information about the variations among faculty in how they teach and test students, tours of the pharmacy building, presentations by various student pharmacy organizations, a session on navigating Moodle – ULM’s online course management system – and of course, practice for the white coat ceremony, a perfect capstone to a demanding week.

“Based on student assessment and one-on-one interactions, I think the Boot Camp is a very worthwhile program,” said College of Pharmacy Interim Dean Benny Blaylock. “I'm confident that the experience gained from the lectures and exam, as well as the other exercises, will pay off for the students as the semester progresses.”

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