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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Pre-pharmacy students hope for more resources, community on campus

Illustration by June Woo
The pre-pharmacy track at NU allows students to explore options in the pharmaceutical industry.

The pre-pharmacy track, one of eight pre-health tracks at Northwestern, offers students course recommendations to best prepare for a career in the pharmaceutical industry. But some students on NU’s pre-pharmacy track said they feel isolated from the broader pre-health community on campus.

Many students are unaware of the pre-pharmacy track’s existence and all that it offers, pre-pharmacy students and faculty said, because the program is overshadowed by the pre-medicine track. 

Many of the courses that are prerequisites for pharmacy school, such as general chemistry and biology, overlap with other pre-health tracks, so students start off with others broadly interested in medicine. However, the pharmaceutical industry differs from other pre-health careers in its approach to helping patients.

In addition to course recommendations, NU also provides pre-health advising to share opportunities in pharmacy with students.  

“You’re working with doctors and physicians to find the best treatment for different patients, and I think it’s like the healthcare setting in a different context,” Weinberg sophomore Gina Song, a pre-pharmacy student, said.

There are wide offerings for common pre-health prerequisites, and those foundational courses are what sparked many students’ interests in pharmacy.

However, many pharmacy schools require specific courses not offered in NU’s undergraduate schools. Pre-pharmacy students like Weinberg junior Sydney Huang said they have no choice but to look to graduate programs – and even to other universities – to complete their schedule. 

“I actually have to take them outside of Northwestern or through the School of Professional Studies,” Huang said. “I’m thinking of (the University of Illinois Chicago) maybe. Since they have a pharmacy school, they also offer classes for that.”

Students said the lack of course offerings on campus and clear guidance from advisors can make it difficult to plan their four years on the pre-pharmacy track. Representatives from pre-health advising said they did not have time to comment.   

Students said they have also struggled to find a pre-pharmacy community to lean on, especially since pharmaceutical healthcare opportunities on campus are overshadowed by pre-medical ones.

“Northwestern is not known for its pre-pharmacy. It’s not shown off as much,” Weinberg freshman Sophia Buen Santos said. “Looking for resources has been like a treasure hunt.”

Despite these obstacles, students said they remain determined to seek out opportunities in the field.

Buen Santos said individuals studying pharmaceutical sciences are not just “in CVS or Walgreens.” Pre-pharmacy students have various goals in the industry, varying from research and medicine development to working in private clinics. 

“I wanted to play a role in helping people to understand their prescriptions and be able to create the changes in treatment opportunities,” Huang said. 

Chemistry Prof. Richard Silverman teaches NU’s only pharmacy-related undergraduate course, Chemistry 316: Medicinal Chemistry: the Organic Chemistry of Drug Design and Action. As a child, Silverman became interested in science through chemistry sets, he said, and is pursuing a  career in pharmaceutical research. 

One of Silverman’s projects led to the development of the nerve and muscle pain-relieving medication, Lyrica.

“(Lyrica has) already treated many millions of people, so I feel very good about that,” Silverman said.

Although there are far more students on the pre-medicine track, Silverman said he hopes more students find out about pre-pharmacy.  

Though they are few, the students said they hope for more awareness of the program and even more students on the track in the future.

“I am hoping to connect with more peers in Northwestern and outside in the future, as well as professionals to gain more knowledge,” Song said. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @KelleyLu_

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