Disneyland creator Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Shelby Denney feels that way as a student in the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Washington State University.

Denney wanted some education in veterinary pharmacy but it wasn’t offered at WSU (or many other pharmacy schools), so she went out and got what she could elsewhere over the last two years. Now this semester – her last in the program – she is finishing her own degree work but also collaborating with one of her professors to teach a newly created elective veterinary pharmacy class in the College of Pharmacy.

“The College of Pharmacy’s really good about letting students fulfill their dreams,” Denney said. “I tell other students if the opportunity they want isn’t there, they can create it.”

This all started when Denney took her cocker spaniel Harvey to a veterinarian two years ago, when she was in her second year of the four-year Doctor of Pharmacy program. The vet prescribed medication for Harvey, and because of her background, Denney decided to fill the prescription at a “people pharmacy.”

When she picked it up, the pharmacist couldn’t describe to Denney the potential side effects of the medication, and that sent her off in pursuit of information about the veterinary medication training available for pharmacists.

There wasn’t much, but she found an online class from the University of Florida, and WSU let her count it as an elective toward her own degree. Denney also went to work on weekends for a veterinary clinic and learned about some of the common medications used to treat animals.

She asked the College of Pharmacy if WSU could create a class in veterinary pharmacy, and was hoping she could contribute to the course because she had discovered a love for teaching in her undergraduate studies at WSU Pullman.

WSU Pharmacy Clinical Professor Linda Garrelts MacLean gave her a tentative yes answer. Then, the work began as the two of them created a syllabus for the class and met with the chairman of the pharmacotherapy department. Next, Denney made a presentation to the college’s curriculum committee and responded to their requested changes at each step in the process.

Denney had reached her fourth and final year in pharmacy school by this time, and was faced with completing a series of on-the-job rotations throughout the year at various types of pharmacy settings in locations around the state.

To be able to complete the work to create the veterinary pharmacy course, she needed some time. MacLean agreed to supervise an elective advanced pharmacy practice experiential rotation at the College of Pharmacy this past fall, and that’s when Denney created the course and it was posted and offered for this spring semester.

A limit of 50 students was set, but because of strong demand a total of 55 student pharmacists were allowed to enroll.

“It is so exciting,” she said.

Professor MacLean notes that Denney “identified correctly that student pharmacists have a strong interest in learning about veterinary medicine. These future professionals want to be better prepared to care for animals and be ready to communicate effectively and competently with their owners.”

The new veterinary pharmacy elective is offered as an online course. Content is recorded and distributed to enrolled students each week via Blackboard ®. Each week of the 15-week semester there is a quiz, and then a mid-term exam and a final exam.

Denney discovered she enjoys teaching when she co-taught a class in psychology as an undergraduate at WSU in Pullman. She had a professional opportunity to teach the veterinary pharmacy information when she offered a short course for 1.5 units of continuing education credit at the November annual fall conference of the Washington State Pharmacy Association in Seattle. WSU faculty member Julie Akers, a recent past president of the WSPA, was the faculty mentor for the CE course.

“I received good feedback from the people who attended, and there were lots of questions,” Denney said. “I closed with a slide that said ‘We may love our pets like family, but they are not humans anatomically or physiologically.’”

[Lorraine Nelson] 3/31/17