Posted on: May 13, 2020
The numbers are in and the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy had a banner year for Match Day!
Final rounds were completed in early May and the College of Pharmacy placed 31 out of 38 students with a residency match. That is a 79 percent match rate, considerably higher than the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists National Match Rate of 63 percent. These students will further their education and training as clinical pharmacists as they spend the next year in their Postgraduate Year 1 (PGY1) residency; many will choose to continue to specialize their focus in Postgraduate Year 2 (PGY2) residencies.
Brandon Bookstaver (2004 Pharm.D.) leads the pre-residency track for the college; he also directs the residency program in infectious diseases for Prisma Health Midlands and the UofSC College of Pharmacy. He is especially proud of our students pursuing programs in South Carolina and throughout the country. He also says it is a record year for the college in terms of what areas the students will pursue. “We had six students who matched to community residency. The most we have ever had previously is three or four,” he says, crediting the program’s community preceptors and entrepreneurial spirit at the COP. “If students enjoy their rotations in community pharmacy, that can greatly influence their decision to follow that track,” he says. “The college and Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center also offer several community residencies.”
The college had 21 out of 25 alumni match to a PGY2 residency, where they will pursue more specialized training, compared to just 13 who sought PGY2 training the previous year. “Two-thirds of our alumni who matched last year decided to pursue a second-year residency,” Bookstaver adds. Those specialties include infectious diseases, pediatrics, cardiology, emergency medicine, solid organ transplant, pain and palliative care, critical care and oncology.
Where They’re Going
Many graduates are staying in South Carolina, but the UofSC College of Pharmacy will see several alumni spread out across the U.S. for their training, including Colorado, New York, Georgia and Texas.
Melissa O’Neal is heading to Houston Methodist in Texas for her first year of residency training. She originally thought she might pursue community pharmacy as she had been working as a pharmacy technician in a local pharmacy since she was 18. She realized during her rotations that she has an interest in infectious diseases. “I discovered I liked the clinical side of things,” she says. “I set up my rotations during my P4 year to mimic what I thought a residency might look like.”
O’Neal credits her preceptors and mentors in providing guidance to prepare for the interviews as part of the match process. “I also got involved in research projects. I kept a log of my interactions with patients and summaries of my roles with them. That helped me recall what I had done during rotations to keep my CV updated,” she adds.
Mary Sheffield is headed to St. Joseph Candler Hospital in Savannah, Georgia, for her first year of residency and hopes to land a second-year residency in either critical care or infectious disease. Sheffield, like many pharmacy students, knew in high school that she wanted to pursue pharmacy, so she participated in the college’s summer pharmacy camps.
Sheffield says one of the things that stood out most to her during her time at the College of Pharmacy was how invested the professors are to ensure every student’s success. “It is something many people don’t think about when they are choosing a program,” she says, “but UofSC offers strong learning opportunities, especially in terms of the rotations offered. I feel very prepared going into my PGY1 residency.”
Closer to Home
Austin Williams will remain in Columbia as he begins his first year of residency at Prisma Health Midlands where he has been working for the past three years. “I started in the inpatient pharmacy and eventually transitioned to sterile compounding IVs,” he says. “I really enjoyed the dynamic between the clinicians and the pharmacists, and I felt like a valuable member of the team.”
Williams’ interest in health care stems from the experiences he had with his grandmother, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. “I got to see first-hand the experience she had with her doctor which got me interested in the disease itself.” Williams even provided information to his grandmother on the newer continuous blood glucose monitors. She talked it over with her doctor and they agreed the monitor would be beneficial for her. “I feel like I helped make an impact on her care,” Williams says.
Williams attended the 2019 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting where he and a visiting professor from China, along with Bookstaver, presented their poster on human consumption of fish antibiotics. The poster garnered a great deal of attention, including from Newsweek, which interviewed Bookstaver about the topic. “That was a great opportunity to network with current residents and program directors,” Williams recalls.
Taylor Turner has known since high school that she wanted to pursue a pharmacy career. “I started working in a pharmacy when I was 15 and fell in love with it,” she says. She will continue her training at Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, S.C.
Turner began preparing for match interviews during her first year at the College of Pharmacy. “I realized that no matter what, going through the pre-residency track can make you better as a pharmacist whether you want to follow retail or work in a hospital,” she says.
Dana Nelson recognized the importance of the one-to-one relationship that community pharmacists can develop with their patients after she shadowed a compounding pharmacist at Prosperity Drug, where she is now completing an internship. “You get to talk with your patients and get to know them,” she says. “I really like the personal interaction and knowing that you can have a real impact on patient care.”
Nelson matched in community pharmacy to Medicine Mart in West Columbia, S.C. The match process can be a bit nerve-racking, but she is glad she went through it. “Even if you don’t pursue a residency, going through the process still helps prepare you to be a better pharmacist,” she acknowledges. “You have opportunities to talk with current residents and learn more about what you may want to do with your career.”
Reevaluating Their Career Path
Erin Catchings’ road to matching took a different path. A 2019 graduate, Catchings did not match to a residency program as a fourth-year pharmacy student, so she took a position as a clinical pharmacist at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System in Spartanburg, S.C. She decided not to give up and chose to pursue residency again. “I reevaluated my interests and what I wanted to get out of residency training,” she says.
Catchings had an interest in immunology after earning a graduate certificate in biomedical sciences before entering pharmacy school. She completed two rotations in transplant pharmacy. “I saw how much transplant patients rely on their pharmacist and the relationship they have since you are able to work with your patients through the evaluation process, transplantation, and management of immunosuppression afterwards,” she says.
Catchings will now further her training at Innova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Virginia. She recommends that if a student does not match on their first attempt, do not give up if it is something you truly want to pursue. “Reach out to your mentors and stay involved in the profession by attending organization meetings,” she suggests. “It is important that you stay in touch with your school and stay up-to-date on medication developments, practice trends, and legislation.”
Briana Murray waited even longer to seek additional training. She completed her Pharm.D. from the UofSC College of Pharmacy in 2016 and followed that up with a PGY1 residency in community pharmacy at Dr. Aziz Pharmacy through Purdue University in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In 2019, she decided she wanted to further her training and seek a PGY2 residency position. “I had a bit of exposure to ambulatory care during my PGY1 residency, and I realized I wanted to do something more clinical,”
Preparing for the match process after being out of school for several years presents a unique set of challenges, especially for someone who is employed full-time. “It’s not something that I decided overnight,” Murray admits, “and I reached out to mentors and other pharmacists to talk through the process.”
Even though she had been through the match previously, she experienced that same nervousness waiting to hear if she was successful in earning a PGY2 residency. The end result, though, was worth it, as she is headed to the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in New York for a second-year residency in ambulatory care with Community Care Physicians. “It may get harder the further removed you are, but if it’s something you want, go for it,” she says. “Get more training, get more education, all of it can only help you in your career.”
Benjamin Barber (2016 Pharm.D.) has also chosen to pursue residency after working as a pharmacist since graduation.
Barber has served as a rotational clinical pharmacist at the Columbia VA Healthcare System since November 2017 and will continue his residency training there.
“I was selected for the non-traditional residency program at Dorn VA,” he says. “This two-year, PGY1 residency allows current Columbia VA HCS pharmacists to retain their position while completing ASHP residency requirements by alternating monthly between regular duties and residency rotations. It’s a great program, and I hope more health care facilities pursue similar opportunities for their staff.”
Barber hopes to pursue a PGY2 residency in ambulatory care. “I became interested in ambulatory care after completing a rotation at the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Hilton Head during my final year of pharmacy school. There, I experienced a personal and collaborative side of patient care that I greatly enjoyed.”
He encourages pharmacists who have been out of school for a while and are considering applying for residency to not be intimidated by the process. “Pharmacists who apply for a residency a few years out of school have the advantage of real-world work experience, and I expect will be helpful during my residency,” he adds.