By Pulse Staff
At 15 years old, Jenna Waits hit the road with her best friend at 7 a.m. one day to make the 160-mile drive from Lynchburg, Ohio to Findlay. They were coming to a very important event; VIP² (Very Important Potential Pharmacist) Day.
“Well, we got up very early and we went to a big classroom,” Waits said. “There was a bunch of other kids here and we got split into groups.”
The College of Pharmacy hosts high school students for a day of pharmacy-based activities. VIP² Days happen twice a year at the University of Findlay.
Debra Parker, PHARM.D., the dean of the college of pharmacy, says the twice-a-year event started in 2017.
“The idea was to give students the opportunity to have the red carpet rolled out for them and allow them a low-stakes opportunity to do some career exploration in pharmacy at any point in their high school career,” Parker said in an email interview.
Parker says somewhere between 40 and 60 high school students typically show up to the events.
“We just went around to different stations. One, we did compounding-we made kind of like icy hot, but nowhere near as potent,” Waits said. “We got to mix different medications, worked on counting pills with candy. But also learned how to read a prescription.”
Waits found out about the event through her guidance counselor when she was a freshman in high school. Now, she’s a 19-year-old freshman at UF.
“I like it a lot,” Waits said. “I was very well educated on the program before I got here, especially after going to that VIP² Day. Just being at college in general was just kind of a big adjustment.”
There are approximately 40 freshmen in the program this year.
“We accept transfer students and also have affiliations with other institutions for students that may join our program after their freshman year of college,” Parker said.
Parker says about 50 UF students graduate each year.
The last V.I.P.² Day was Oct. 13 and the next one takes place Friday, March 22. Now, Waits volunteers with the event.
“It’s kind of nice to be able to answer questions like speaking from experience,” Waits said. “I went to that when I was a freshman in high school and now there are kids that age.”
Her 17-year-old sister recently participated in the event as well, though Waits says she’s still figuring out what she wants to do after high school. Waits is the oldest of five siblings and says her parents were happy with her decision to pursue pharmacy at UF.
“They both are very proud,” Waits said. “My mom’s a nurse; she didn’t go to school until later in her life. I remember her going to college after, when I was in elementary school.”
Waits is making her way through the six-year program at UF and on the 0+6 direct-entry track. She is intrigued by the different paths her career can take with her PHARM.D, such as research.
“I just like how many different options and possibilities there are,” Waits said. “If I wanted to become a doctor, obviously there’s all kinds of different specialties that I could go into. You got options.”
The V.I.P.² day is a starting point for potential UF students.
“They are invited at this event to join us in the summer for the full camp, to visit the University and the College of Pharmacy or any other health profession at UF they may be interested in exploring,” Parker said.
While the classes are tough, Waits is confident.
“It’s definitely been a little bit rough,” Waits said. “But I’ve had a tutor and stuff like that, so it’ll be okay.”