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Published October 23, 2020
The University of Wyoming’s School of Pharmacy is now fully immersed in on-campus learning for students as part of UW’s Phase 3 reopening process.
In addition to standard safety procedures adhered to in all pharmacy labs, in-person learning is conducted under UW’s guidelines for COVID-19 safety.
Baskaran “Baski” Thyagarajan, an associate professor of pharmaceutics and neuroscience, and his class of first-year pharmacy students have demonstrated how safety procedures for students can be followed in a confined laboratory.
The Pharmaceutical Care Learning Center (PCLC) is located on the third floor of the School of Pharmacy wing in the UW College of Health Sciences.
“This is an interesting lab as our students will learn how to change a medication delivered via one formulation to another -- it is an interformulation conversion learning activity,” Thyagarajan says. “This activity is for the ‘Pharmacist Skills I-Practical Aspects of Dosage Form Design’ course.”
Thyagarajan says the lab trains students to perform an intraformulation conversion. That means they convert a capsule formulation -- oral use -- into a gel formulation -- external use.
Normally, members of the student teams work physically close together to take notes and observe experiment outcomes. While this is no longer possible with mandatory six-foot distancing, students have adapted to the circumstances.
“We all follow sanitation, mask and social distancing guidelines. Students receive instructions prior to and during the lab,” Thyagarajan says. “They observe social distancing; wear masks throughout the lab; use sanitizers; frequently change gloves; follow orderliness while using balances for weighing; and perform all lab activities while strictly adhering to the recommended guidelines of UW.”
First-year students say COVID safety was a top priority in the PCLC laboratory course.
“I think the school does a great job practicing social distancing and mask mandates,” says Abigail Fry, from Star Valley. “I also appreciate having the opportunity to make up a lab later if we miss one due to COVID.”
The importance of preparing pharmacy students to be top-rank professionals in their field cannot be overemphasized, Thyagarajan says. Having detailed safety standards already in place helped provide a seamless transition to added COVID safety measures.
“The lab sessions are shortened to focus on allowing more spacing when performing them,” says Chloe Bukvich, from Lake in the Hills, Ill. “Mostly, the lab is already safe. I feel safety is already a top priority, so that has not changed.”
While the COVID guidelines affect many different learning environments, students are still able to participate and learn in face-to-face settings.
“It has taken away the excitement of the first semester of pharmacy school,” Suyasha Pradhanang, from Kathmandu, Nepal, says of COVID’s impact. “However, I like UW’s take on this. It made me feel safe while still being able to meet classmates on campus.”
While the in-person experience has changed, most students note only slight challenges. Madison DuPree, from Worland, says there is mild discomfort, as well as foggy glasses and some communication challenges.
“I think the teaching assistants and the lab instructor have made the lab as safe as possible and as normal as it could be,” says Jalen Gonzales, from Erie, Colo.
Thyagarajan says he appreciates the support of the Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning’s summer courses that continue to help him safely conduct the laboratory course using both video recordings and in-person laboratory sessions.