Campus News Georgia Impact

Head Start: Program introduces middle, high school students to career choices in pharmacy

The middle and high school students gathered in the College of Pharmacy on a recent Saturday morning looked like they may have come from a private school, with their matching blue or white shirts and black pants.

But the initials embroidered on one girl’s shirt-“YWS”-stood not for the name of a particular academy; rather, it meant Young Women Scholars, an organization targeting African-­American students that spans Athens area schools.

These scholars, along with the male counterpoint of Gentlemen on the Move, are encouraged to consider college as a given, not a privilege, in the Empowered Youth Programs created by Deryl Bailey, an assistant professor of counseling and human development services at UGA.

Every Saturday, they meet on campus to study social skills and investigate future academic careers. Earlier this spring, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Pharmacy invited EYP students with an interest in math and science to tour the pharmacy college, participate in lab experiments and consider pharmacy as a career path. UGA’s Minority Advising Program funded the day, and the College of Pharmacy hosted a continental breakfast before the activities.

“The day was experiential and ­lecture-formatted, and students left with a sense of what this field of study can offer them if they are math- and science-oriented,” said Martha Wisbey, assistant director of the Office of Institutional Diversity, and one of the organizers of the day. She added that she was especially pleased by the collaboration by the different departments involved.

In one lab, Flynn Warren, assistant dean for student affairs and a clinical professor in the College of Pharmacy, showed students how to avoid mixing incompatible medicines and the mechanics of an I.V. line. He also advised the students to load up on math and science courses.

Valerie Omidina, a student in the undergraduate Pharm.D. program, demonstrated the first step in making suppositories by melting a gooey Aquaphor base in a water bath. Amid scattered giggles, the students took turns wrapping the solidified suppositories in bright blue foil.

There was a more palatable aspect to the lab-sniffing bottles containing flavors like lemon oil, raspberry, chocolate and caramel that had been developed to mask bad-tasting medicines.

Markus Martin, a sophomore at Cedar Shoals High School, counts math as his favorite subject and has always considered entrepreneurship or engineering as a career. The visit to the pharmacy college, however, got him considering another possibility.

“At first I thought about medical careers, working with different chemicals or drugs, but I haven’t taken the time to ask medical students how it is,” he said. “So I’m probably going to start doing that next week.”