Monday, October 23, 2023

At the University of Iowa (UI) College of Pharmacy, mentorship is an essential aspect of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program, intentionally focused on the growth and development of students. This is evidenced by three distinct programs: the Faculty Mentorship Program, the Professional Mentorship Program, and the Peer Mentorship Program.

Each initiative emphasizes the benefits of a mentor/mentee relationship for both working professionals and aspiring pharmacists. The overarching goal is to advance student development in a holistic way, with mentors providing encouragement, assistance, and support. 

Faculty Mentorship Program

The Faculty Mentorship Program — which assists professional development related to career counseling, professionalism, and academic success — was established in 2006 after student surveys indicated they wished for more information on career planning and professional development. 

Through the program, students are assigned a faculty mentor during their first year of pharmacy school. Faculty mentors meet with their mentees before classes start for an icebreaker lunch. They discuss how best to communicate and answer questions.

“Organic mentoring and meeting faculty typically takes a long time to mature. This program makes that happen quickly.”
-- Vern Duba

Moving forward, faculty members review their student’s SMART goals, respond to various experiential reflections, and meet at least three times face-to-face. During their meetings, faculty mentors offer their mentees everything from advice on career objectives to helping build confidence.

In addition to the mentor/mentee match, students are exposed to career options through courses such as IPPE Career Exploration and Continuing Professional Development, to name a few. These courses include scheduled one-on-one meetings with faculty mentors for meaningful and personalized guidance. 

Vern Duba, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science and an instructional services specialist in the Office of Professional Education, coordinates the Faculty Mentor Program and has 27 mentees of his own. 

“Organic mentoring and meeting faculty typically takes a long time to mature,” he said. “This program makes that happen quickly.”

Duba added, “Mentors act as agents of networking; they connect mentees to others in the college, on campus, and outside the University of Iowa.”

One faculty mentor involved with the Faculty Mentorship Program is Deanna McDanel, clinical associate professor and clinical pharmacy specialist in Ambulatory Care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She became a mentor upon the program's inception,

“Over the past 17 years, I have taken a group of mentees every year and have had a total of 85 student mentees,” she shared. “I have tried to connect with each student in some way, and while I have those that I only knew from our mentor meetings, I have had some that I continue to engage with professionally and personally to this day.”

McDanel continued, “Through a recent Leadership Academy I attended, I have found that two of my strongest professional voices are being a nurturer and a connector. This aligns perfectly with mentoring students, and it fills my cup connecting with them and helping them achieve their personal and professional goals.”

Professional Mentorship Program

The Professional Mentor Program matches first-year PharmD students with a UI College of Pharmacy alumna, alumnus, or friend who helps them explore careers, set goals, develop contacts, and identify resources. The pairs are encouraged to communicate throughout the mentee’s educational journey and beyond. These relationships are proven to be a valuable resource for the student and an enriching and rewarding experience for mentors.

Kayla Sanders, UI College of Pharmacy’s alumni relations manager, oversees the Professional Mentorship Program and points out that the benefits are plentiful for both the mentor and mentee.

“This program is a win-win for everyone who actively participates,” she said. “If our students learn anything, it’s that mentorship and making personal connections are vital in their lives and their careers. It gives students an opportunity to engage with someone to expand their networking, grow their soft skills, and receive support from someone who genuinely wants them to succeed. For our mentors, it allows them to remain connected to the College and play an important part in the lives of our students.”

One duo in the Professional Mentorship Program is Craig Logemann (‘98, BSPh) and Lauren Duncalf (’24, PharmD).

Chavez and Lundberg

Said Logemann, “I think it is important for persons to take the opportunity to share their professional journey with new learners. It's valuable for new learners to hear about different pharmacist opportunities that may spark interest in an area they are unfamiliar with.”

He shared that serving as a mentor is a great way to assist the profession that has served him well across the years.

“I believe it is a good way for mentee students to learn how to navigate into the profession of pharmacy by acting as a sounding board for them,” Logemann said. “The UI College of Pharmacy has been an important part of my life, and I see this as a small way to give back to the College.”

Duncalf shared that she got involved with the Professional Mentorship Program to interact with a pharmacy professional working in her interest area.

“Through this opportunity, I've been able to receive feedback and advice throughout my pharmacy journey that has helped prepare me for my future beyond pharmacy school,” she said. “I think this is a super beneficial experience for students because it provides them with a unique point of view regarding their experiences.”

Another mentor in the program, Raemi Chavez (’21, PharmD), chose to join because she always enjoyed meeting with and talking to pharmacists as a student.

“It was nice to be able to ask questions of people who had been where I was and made it through,” she said. “Seeing all the potential paths I could take was intriguing. Now I enjoy talking to students about my experiences and hearing about what interests them and their goals.”

Chavez added, “This is a really easy way to give back to the College and the profession. It doesn't take a lot of time to reach out every once in a while and connect with a student, and it can be a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

Chavez’s mentee, Karli Michael (’26, PharmD), feels her professional mentor is a resource and a role model. The two first met when Chavez was a student pharmacist at a local Hy-Vee, and Michael was beginning pharmacy school.

“This is a really easy way to give back to the College and the profession. It doesn't take a lot of time to reach out every once in a while and connect with a student, and it can be a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved.” -- Raemi Chavez

“Observing Raemi as she not only learned but also taught our pharmacists and was so enthusiastic about her future career was really something I admired and something that I believe influenced me to continue this path,” Michael said. “Today, as she has a full-time job as a pharmacist and I am in school full-time, I can appreciate that I have her to reach out to and ask for questions or support.”

Michael added, “I realize that not all mentor-mentee relationships are identical to mine; however, I believe that knowing you have the support from someone who has been in your shoes and continued on to do great things is really something special.”

Peer Mentorship Program

The College of Pharmacy’s Peer Mentor Program aims to support first-year PharmD students (P1s) as they begin their pharmacy education. Current students are important role models and can assist in retention and academic success by helping provide a support system and sense of community among students.

Peer Mentors 2

Abby Crowner (P3), who served as the peer-mentor coordinator, said that mentors share stories with their mentees about their own journey and educational career; provide advice about how to overcome obstacles and fears; share tips on time management and professional communication skills; and teach mentees about the various resources available to them at the UI.

“The Peer Mentor Program is just one of the many resources offered by the College of Pharmacy to help build a support system for its students,” Crowner said. “Anyone who walks into the pharmacy building can witness the community that we have in the College. For example, you can see the interactions between students who are in different classes in the hallways and study spaces. As the peer-mentor coordinator, I often hear from my own peers about the connections and relationships built through the program. It is exciting to hear about the impacts of this program from others.”