Education research

Community service learning

Our CSL research explores the learning experienced by first-year pharmacy students as they participate in community service projects and examines the outcomes of their experiences. We want to know how CSL initiatives enhance the education of pharmacy students and if these experiences are being integrated into their formal studies.

We have analyzed student reflection papers as well as a series of mission statements that students have prepared over their duration in the four-year BScPhm program at the School of Pharmacy. We are also conducting interviews with community partner agencies to contextualize the CSL experience with multiple perspectives.

Our analysis has revealed that CSL projects provide students with a valuable opportunity to learn from and to engage with community organizations. Most students value their CSL projects and develop a more complete understanding of the dynamic nature of communities and the impact local communities will have on their future practice as pharmacists.

Coaching program

The coaching program was designed to offer pharmacy students professional support and guidance about their co-op placements. The purpose of this research is to see if the coaching program we developed is beneficial for pharmacy students. To determine the impact of the program, we designed an experiment using two cohorts of students — the school’s graduating class of 2012 acted as the control group and the graduating class of 2013 as the intervention group — i.e., those that had pharmacist coaches.

Qualitative data suggest that the coaching program is valued by both pharmacist mentors and students and that such mentoring may help students with their professional and career development in a way that strictly personal or professional activities do not.

Co-op research

Description to come…

Mission statements (professional identify development)

We are currently conducting research on professional identity development through student mission statements. Our vanguard class, the first cohort of students at the School of Pharmacy, was asked to write a professional mission statement at four points during their time in the program. This research is examining student learning and the development of identity as a student makes the transition from a pharmacy learner to a professional pharmacist.

Informatics curriculum development

The explosive growth of biomedical complexity and increase in technology within healthcare has put increased pressure on pharmacy programs to incorporate informatics into their curriculum. The School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo is the first pharmacy school in Canada to incorporate comprehensive informatics content into its pharmacy curriculum.

The purpose of this project is to undertake a quality-assurance project to further our understanding of student perspectives and learnings from integrating informatics education in the pharmacy curriculum.

Business curriculum development and evaluation

Pharmacy programs are intensive and have limited flexibility to accommodate business skills development. It is crucial therefore to identify the most relevant deficiencies within current curriculum. Our business curriculum gaps analysis study, led by School of Pharmacy colleague, Dr. Roderick Slavcev, has revealed that both pharmacy business experts and practicing pharmacists think that pharmacy students need to learn and master functional business and management skills.

Both of these groups also reported that pharmacists lack strategic planning and leadership skills. Pharmacists tended to describe their business needs in practical terms (such as hiring and budgeting) whereas business leaders stressed the significance of ultimate business objectives (such as entrepreneurship) and the importance of developing strong strategic management skills so pharmacists can become leaders in their profession.

We have used the results of this gaps analysis study to design and delivery a customizable business and strategic management program within the overall curriculum at the School of Pharmacy.

Pharmacy experiential curricular reform

Description to come…