‘More Than Just Medicine’: Students Learn Much at Pharmacy Camp

By Benjamin Waldrum

Held June 3-5 at the UAMS Little Rock campus, the UAMS College of Pharmacy’s annual pharmacy camp introduced young learners to the profession of pharmacy. Campers gathered each morning for lectures, labs and other group activities. College of Pharmacy faculty were on hand to discuss their work in different areas of pharmacy as campers asked questions.

Pharmacy Camp 2024 Students

Campers wore matching bright red t-shirts on the second day of camp and participated in fun group activities, including compounding.Benjamin Waldrum

One of the highlights of the camp is the compounding labs. On the first day, campers made brightly colored sorbitol lollipops and aloe vera foam cleansers. The next day, they created labels for their preparations just as pharmacists do and spent the afternoon making flavored lip balm and glycerin bar soap.

After the campers donned gowns and gloves, they lined up to gather their equipment, including hot plates, balances, beakers, mortars and pestles, and other necessary lab ware.  Each camper followed a set of instructions to carefully measure raw materials into containers and heat them, keeping an eye on the temperature and consistency as they added custom scents or flavors.

Student ambassadors supervised tables of three or four at a time. They helped find equipment, monitored the campers’ progress, answered questions and helped out with the occasional spill.

It all resembled a busy workshop humming with activity. Campers and ambassadors worked together to fetch equipment, share materials, give encouragement and tidy up.

“I wish I had this as a high-schooler,” said Korinne Hopek, a second-year pharmacy student. “It’s an awesome opportunity, and they get to see a lot. I didn’t know a lot going into pharmacy school, but these kids have been able to see what we do — a day in the life.”

Melanie Reinhardt, Pharm.D., associate professor of pharmacy practice, led the sterile and non-sterile compounding labs. This year labs were held on the eighth floor of the Education II Building while the ninth floor labs are being renovated.

“I love seeing our students teach,” Reinhardt said. “They know a lot more than they realize.”

Hayden Wood, now a third-year pharmacy student, attended the camp in 2019 as a high school junior. He said serving as a student ambassador has given him a new understanding of how much work goes into making the camp a success.

Mallory Thompson and Lynn Duncan

Bryant High School sophomore Mallory Thompson, at left, gets some help during compounding labs from College of Pharmacy student Lynn Duncan.Benjamin Waldrum

“I got a better understanding of how much dedication we have from our staff in the College of Pharmacy that runs this every year,” Wood said. “Being in a more supervisory role, it just shows what hard work really goes on behind the scenes, and I know these campers appreciate it. We’re appreciative of them to come and see what it’s like to be a student pharmacist.”

Wood said that the level of activities that the campers were doing was at the same level as new pharmacy students — and sometimes, even more advanced than that.

“We’re trying to expose them to all aspects of pharmacy, not just P1 [skills] but advanced as well,” Wood said. “With lollipops for example, you do not do that until you’re a third-year student in advanced compounding. The level of calculation and precision that they must have for lollipops, I was amazed at how well they did it.”

Campers posed for photos with their finished products, all of which they could take home. It was an educational but fun learning environment where the young students trained like professionals.

“I didn’t know there was all this in pharmacy,” said Mallory Thompson, 15, a sophomore at Bryant High School. “I thought it was more like, handling medicine. But over these two days I’ve seen that it’s more than just medicine and sitting behind a counter filling pills.”

Thompson said she was surprised by how much is involved in pharmacy as a profession.

“There’s a lot of people that work in pharmacy, and they all work together,” Thompson said, as she stirred in coloring for her green tea-scented soap. “I went in the hospital pharmacy during the tour, and it was huge. I was like, wow — I did not know all that. I’ve really learned a lot.”