Wingate Pharmacy camp gives teens, including Oakboro resident, a dose of ever-broadening profession

Mention the word “pharmacist” and for most people images of a white coat behind a counter come to mind. Not so for 25 area teenagers who attended Pharmacy Camp at Wingate University July 16-20 to learn about the profession and its 100-plus career options.

“I really enjoyed touring all the different pharmacy locations, learning about retail and hospital pharmacists and others, like the toxicology pharmacist,” says 16-year-old Lydia Crisco from Oakboro. “I had no idea that there were that many career paths.”

Matthew Puga, 18, from Rockwell, is headed to Wingate this fall as a pre-pharmacy student and wanted to get a taste of the profession before starting his classes.

“The camp opened my eyes to all the different fields of pharmacy that I can look up online and learn more about,” Puga says. “I never thought about the fact that a pharmacist could work for a prison.”

The East Rowan High graduate says right now that he’s most interested in retail after hearing from pharmacists from Walgreens.

For Trevor Hinson from Monroe, one of the highlights of the week was a morning spent volunteering with NC MedAssist, where campers helped sort and organize over-the-counter medicines at a Charlotte warehouse.

“It was good seeing how even before you have a pharmacy degree, you can help people in need, people that need medicine and can’t afford it,” he says.

Hinson, a rising senior at Arborbrook Christian Academy, had only one complaint about the Pharmacy Camp: It wrapped up too soon.

“It was so much fun,” the 17-year-old said. “I wish it had lasted longer.”

He said the camp inspired him to consider medications for his senior-year research topics at Arborbrook.

Hearing campers talk about their broadened perspectives of pharmacy put a smile on the face of Dr. Sue Bruce The dean of the School of Pharmacy said that was the main goal for the four-night, five-day camp, at which students also gained hands-on experience with pharmacy skills and visited area sites to get a look at innovative takes on the profession.

Campers heard from close to 30 pharmacists, many of whom shared their varied career paths.

“It was easy to see that students were making the connections as they heard these folks share their lived experiences,” Bruce says.

Dr. John Brock Harris, assistant dean, helped campers understand how their high school biology and chemistry classes connect to pharmacy principles. His session included a primer on how medicines work in the body and offered hands-on practice preparing medication-dosage forms. In another session, students learned about the role of pharmacists in public health.

In addition to lectures, hands-on activities and panel discussions, camp programming also included time at the campus lake, a pool party, an outing to a Charlotte Knights baseball game and a taste of dorm life.

A trio of Wingate pharmacy students served as camp counselors and fielded a host of questions, many focused on which courses were most difficult and how to prepare for the rigors of pharmacy school.

“It was an amazing week, full of energy, and the campers were so engaged,” says Kendra Gemmill from New Freedom, Pennsylvania. She will start her third year in pharmacy school this fall.

Angela Saber, a second-year pharmacy student from Charlotte, says serving as a counselor helped her build leadership skills.

“It was nice seeing how much of an impact you can make in a short time,” says Saber, who is hopeful that she’ll see some campers showing up as Wingate undergraduate students.

Bruce says helping high school students make decisions about what to study was also a camp benefit.

“Helping them to explore a profession, to confirm that it’s something they think they want to do, or that it’s not for them — that’s valuable information, too,” she says. “Having that exploration about what it means to be in a profession is a great tool for parents and students.”