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Community pharmacists molding next generation of health care leaders

Pharmacy student reaching for bottle of pills.

Some of the most important skills are learned outside the classroom.

That’s why real-world professionals known as pharmacy preceptors play such a vital role in the education of future pharmacists.

More than 1,000 pharmacists across the state have served as preceptors for the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. Preceptors are licensed pharmacists who have at least a year of experience or six months of American Society of Health-System Pharmacists residency training. Every couple of years the participating pharmacists take preceptor training. They are affiliated with the college and help students gain valuable experience in a pharmacy intern setting by serving as teachers, advocates and observers. They work side-by-side with the students teaching as they practice all aspects and functions of the pharmacy profession.

Pharmacist Buddy Jones prepares medication for patients
Buddy Jones, a pharmacist at the Walgreens in Kingsville, Texas, has served as a preceptor since the college opened in 2006.

Buddy Jones, a pharmacist at the Walgreens in Kingsville, Texas, is one such preceptor. Jones has served as a preceptor since the college opened in 2006.

“Mr. Jones really took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of the pharmacy world,” said Lauren DeLoach, a fourth-year professional student pharmacist from Port Isabel, Texas. DeLoach has worked with Jones at Walgreens for more than six years, first as a pharmacy technician and then as an intern in pharmacy college.

“His relationship with his patients has set a great example of what I hope to build with my patients in my practice one day,” DeLoach said. “Not only has he taught me countless tricks of the trade, he shared with me the joys of being a valuable member of the community.”

Jones began working in a pharmacy at the age of 12. His work as a young boy carried over to his college years when he was studying to become a pharmacist. Jones completed his prerequisites for pharmacy school at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, and then earned his degree in pharmacy from the University of Texas.

After finishing his pharmacy studies, Jones moved back to Kingsville. His work experience has included hospital relief work, consulting with nursing homes, and co-owning a pharmacy in downtown Kingsville. Throughout his career, Jones has enjoyed serving others through a community pharmacy.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am today without him as a constant reminder of what I hope to one day become: an accessible, trustworthy neighborhood pharmacist and valued member of the community,” DeLoach said.

Jones trains students to serve their communities by stressing important characteristics of a pharmacist.

“Customer service is one of the most important things to know when becoming a pharmacist,” Jones said. “As someone who works closely with a community, dealing with customers and being able to speak to them on a personal level is a great quality. The student pharmacists must know what is going on behind the counter of the pharmacy at all times and how their work is affecting the people that they serve.”

Jones spends more than 100 hours with students in their second year of pharmacy school and has fourth-year students for six weeks at a time during their advanced clinical rotations. By the time students complete their training, Jones has exposed them to what it is like to work in a community pharmacy and ensures that they are comfortable with the environment.

“Mr. Jones is a great person and a fantastic pharmacist to learn from,” said Seth B. Lomax, who is a third-year professional student pharmacist. “From counseling patients to managing interactions, he is always very helpful. I hope I will be as patient, friendly and knowledgeable of a pharmacist as Mr. Jones.”

In addition to teaching students how to interact with patients, Jones teaches them things that are important to keep up with behind the scene, such as regulating temperatures on refrigerators, keeping up with inventory and keeping an environment friendly and clean.

“These little things might not seem like a big deal, but they are absolutely necessary in making sure that a pharmacy runs smoothly,” Jones said. “This is important when knowing that each pharmacist is entrusted with more than a quarter of a million dollars of inventory.”

And although training and knowledge of the pharmacy setting is important in preparing a student for their chosen career, personality traits are also important.

“Eye contact, clear language and understanding needs are what every pharmacist needs to know and what I try to educate students about,” Jones said.

Jones believes that one of the keys to pharmacists being such trusted professionals is creating an environment where customers feel safe.

“What I have learned most from Mr. Jones is the importance of having a familiar face, someone patients feel comfortable with and can trust, in a pharmacy,” said Eric Wright, a second-year professional student pharmacist.

Jones said the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy provides professional student pharmacists with outstanding knowledge, training and skills.

“The students I work with are well-prepared and knowledgeable, which are some of the traits that I truly enjoy,” he said. “The retention rate of the college and the passing rate on the state exams they take upon graduation are exceptionally high, which positively reflects on the school. I enjoy being able to work with the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and the students who receive their education there.”

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