After years of study, what is the thing that many college students wish they had more of? Real-life experience.

A unique partnership in Upstate, New York is providing pharmacy students with a practical application for the knowledge they are acquiring while they provide extra resources to thousands of people in need.

In spring of 2016, Hometown Health Centers and Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences opened New York State's first ever student-operated pharmacy. It's called College Hometown Pharmacy.

Hometown Health Centers provides primary health care to about 18,000 patients in Schenectady County. 80% of them are considered to be economically disadvantaged. Hometown CEO Joe Gambino says clients often don't have transportation readily available, so having an on-site pharmacy is essential to their follow-up care. Previously, Walgreens operated a pharmacy on-site, but that closed in spring of 2015.

Enter Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Gregory Dewey, Ph.D., President, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) says he is always on the lookout for his students to get real-life experience. He was thrilled by the prospect of having his students help run a pharmacy. The resulting “win-win” of College Hometown Pharmacy is that it helps thousands of people get the convenience of a pharmacy in the same location where they are receiving care, while students get real-world experience both in helping patients and operating a business.Pharmacy student

Of course, no-one wants to create a situation where patients receive less-than-qualified care, nor where students are put into a situation where they are in over their heads. A licensed pharmacists is always in charge. And students are never going to do anything they haven't passed qualifications exams for. At pharmacy chains, stocking shelves and ringing out purchases is the kind of work increasingly done by "pharmacy assistants." How much better might it be for pharmacy students to fill some of those duties?

PHARMACY SHELVESLooking toward the future, Dr. Dewey says Hometown Pharmacy may become a model for expanded services at all pharmacies, "The profession is changing and we would like to see a broader role for pharmacists. We would like to see pharmacists to becoming more like providers. They are educated to really do a lot more. They are a great untapped resource in our healthcare system."

Pharmacy candidate Sarah DiVello, (Class of 2018) agrees that prescription filling is just the beginning of what pharmacists can provide, "We also offer a whole bunch of other services like osteoporosis screenings, blood pressure readings, all different kinds of a little more clinical aspects of pharmacy that you might not necessarily get at your average community pharmacy and we can do that because we have students running it.

How does it all work? Check out these podcasts featuring Sarah DiVello, Dr. Dewey, and Joe Gambino:

Want to know more? Check out these videos prepared by Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Albany College of Pharmacy.