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UW Pharmacy Student Aims to Inspire Others to Pursue Dual Pharmacy/MBA Degrees

May 22, 2013

Lisa Ohnstad is the type of person to pay it forward.

Ohnstad, from Weston, an unincorporated community along the upper Little Powder River north of Gillette, is doing something no other University of Wyoming student has attempted: studying in the new dual pharmacy/MBA degree program.

The doctor of pharmacy/executive MBA candidate (class of 2015) has received several honors recognizing her accomplishments and leadership skills. Her achievements are remarkable, considering that she is balancing the rigors of both programs, a military career and spending time with her family.

She and her husband, Aaron, from Gillette and a 2005 UW graduate, have a son, Archer.

Her desire to stay in Wyoming and help others has driven Ohnstad to pursue degrees in both the health care and business professions.

“I am doing it so that I could, along with my husband, stay in the state we know and love,” she says. “I had always wanted to work in the health care industry and, when my husband was called to active duty, I felt it was the right time for me to return to college.”

Ohnstad considered several health care programs, and pharmacy fit the things she wanted to personally accomplish.

“Pharmacy combined the insurance background that I had with my love of details and would allow me to live in Wyoming and contribute to the state’s health care,” Ohnstad adds.

While applying for pharmacy school, Ohnstad also applied to the MBA program, initially as a backup plan. But in the back of her mind, she took it as a personal challenge to see if she could accomplish both programs.

“I already had my undergraduate degree, and I knew that I would need upper-division courses outside of the School of Pharmacy or health sciences. I saw this as an opportunity to do both while achieving both course requirements simultaneously,” she says. “After being accepted into both programs, and with assistance from both departments, I was able to dual enroll. My recommendation to others is go to school for what you want to do, and can be engaged, energized and passionate about.”

Ohnstad is in the four-year, on-campus pharmacy program. She is enrolled in the online Executive MBA Program because the new five-year, on-campus dual program was not available when she began her dual degree courses.Lisa Ohnstad

For a nontraditional student returning to college with a family, the intensive course load (20 credit hours this past semester) and the external department requirements can be daunting.

”I highly recommend the five-year, on-campus dual program UW has launched,” Ohnstad says. “The MBA has opened doors for me that I never thought were possible; however, the four-year plan that I have been on has been intense.”

Since starting the pharmacy program two years ago, she has completed 83 credit hours.

“Being a dual student has its opportunities as well, bringing in new influences, contacts and opportunities, and has allowed me to consider options of working in management directly out of college,” she says. “In the current health care market, employers are actively seeking employees with a high level of health care experience and medical-based degree combined with a master’s degree in business.”

The dual degree program has provided Ohnstad with more opportunities with her pharmacy rotations. While on rotation, Ohnstad’s preceptor allowed her to shadow in the management aspect of community pharmacy.

“On my first hospital rotation, my preceptor also had an MBA degree, and was very positive how it would increase my ability to help facilitate better medication management,” she says. “Because of my course work in the MBA program, and in-depth experience with software programs, I was able to prepare and set up programs that would facilitate medication reconciliation for patients who were being treated between the clinic and specialty clinics.”

She was able to take the filled prescription medication data and create a program that would analyze the data and generate easy-to-read graphs. She programmed the resulting graphs to generate a report that could be presented at medication review meetings.

“Being able to combine the MBA knowledge and skills with my introductory rotation provided me with unique opportunities,” she says.

Ohnstad, a Wyoming Air National Guard second lieutenant, was named a Tillman Military Scholar this past academic year. After receiving the prestigious award, she participated in the Pat Tillman Leadership Summit, where the foundation brought the fourth class of scholars together at the University of Maryland to participate in service and leadership projects.

Ohnstad was recently notified that she has been selected to represent UW at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland later this month. Students are selected based upon their demonstrated interest in improving the learning experience for female students at UW and their involvement within the university.

In addition to attending the national conference, Ohnstad will be involved in planning and implementing the UW Women’s Leadership Conference in the fall.

“After I graduate, I plan to give back by using my pharmacy degree in areas in need of medical care,” she adds.

Lisa Ohnstad of Weston, working in a University of Wyoming laboratory, is doing something no other UW student is doing: studying in the dual pharmacy/MBA degree programs. (UW Photo)

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