Summer Pharmacy Camp Sparks High School Students’ Interest

By Benjamin Waldrum

It was one of several aspects of pharmacy that students learned at this year’s pharmacy camp, an annual event hosted by the UAMS College of Pharmacy. This year’s camp was sponsored by Walmart.

Nicholas Hollowell and high school students

Third-year pharmacy student Nicholas Hollowell (at right) watches students Harmony Yang (left) and Brooklyn Young (center) create bars of soap in the compounding lab.Benjamin Waldrum

From June 5-7, the students stayed in the UAMS residence hall and attended classes each day. Mornings began with lectures from College of Pharmacy faculty on different pharmacy careers. Afternoons were more active, with compounding labs and scavenger hunt tours of the pharmacy facilities. Evenings had pizza parties, game nights and movies.

“We’re really just trying to engage the students and give them a good time, and let them learn a little bit more about pharmacy,” said Nick Hollowell, a third-year pharmacy student. “This is my first year helping out, and it’s been great. They’ve had smiles every day, and they really enjoy it.”

During compounding labs, students became junior pharmacists for the day, wearing colorful lab coats as they worked in groups to create lollipops, lip balm and bar soap. The lollipops and lip balm had fruity and fun flavors like lemonade, cherry and lime. Students added name-brand scents and swirled multicolor tie-dye patterns into their soap bars before they cooled. In another lab, students prepared cuticle and calamine lotions. Everything they made, they could take home.

“Pharmacy camp gives me a better understanding of what pharmacy is,” said Harmony Young, 17, a senior at Bentonville High School. “I used to think that pharmacy was just people behind desks giving out medicine, but being here gives more variety to the types of pharmacy.”

“The really cool thing for us is that we have students now who took part in pharmacy camp and then applied to pharmacy school,” said Melanie Reinhardt, Pharm.D., an associate professor of pharmacy practice.

One of those former campers is Hayden Wood, now a second-year pharmacy student. Like the other College of Pharmacy student ambassadors, Wood stayed busy checking on each student, offering encouragement and giving helpful tips so they got the result they wanted.

Hayden Wood and high school students

Pharmacy camp was an eye-opening experience for Hayden Wood (center), now a second-year pharmacy student.Benjamin Waldrum

Wood said he was proud of the pharmacy camp concept and its impact on his life. He attended pharmacy camp in 2019 as a junior at Midland High School in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas.

“It was 100% eye-opening,” Wood said. “I came here [for pharmacy camp], and I was head over heels. The faculty treated us like family. I realized that it just wasn’t the people that were special, it was the profession as a whole — pharmacy. It’s given me an avenue to help people and make a difference in this world. So, coming back here in 2023, I have a chance to give back and show these kids how great the field of pharmacy is.”

Later, Reinhardt and Wood gathered the students together and showed how to put their lip balm mixture inside a tube. Students paid close attention as the shapeless mass was quickly rolled up, loaded into the tube like a torpedo and then sealed, almost like a magic trick.

“It’s fun to see that this makes a difference in their decision,” Reinhardt said. “The whole purpose of this is to let students get an idea of what we do. Community pharmacy is typically what people see. But there are lots of pharmacists behind the scenes, making nuclear meds or working in hospitals making IVs. We try to expose them to as much as possible.”

“All I knew when I came here in 2019 was, when I got sick, my doctor would send me to a pharmacist, they would give me pills, and I would go home,” Wood said. “After getting here, I saw that there were 17 different pharmacy specialties. This camp is what opened that door.”