Since Washington State University launched their Doctor of Pharmacy Yakima extension in 2015, students interested in learning about rural health care in a medically underserved area have pursued their PharmD degree in the scenic Yakima Valley. Last year, the extension graduated their inaugural class. As the college’s history in the Yakima Valley grows, we’re taking a moment to reflect on what makes our Yakima extension so special.
Here are a few things you may not have known about our Yakima extension:
Housed in the Pacific Northwest Health Sciences University (PNWU) campus, Yakima student pharmacists learn alongside PNWU Doctor of Osteopathy and WSU College of Nursing students. First year pharmacy students even share some classes with Heritages University Master of Arts in Medical Sciences (MAMS) students preparing to pursue a doctoral degree in a health profession; many of whom return to the campus later as PNWU or WSU students.
This shared learning environment fosters interprofessional connections with a focus on developing tomorrow’s leaders in innovative and accessible community-centered care. Starting in the fall of 2021 the campus will expand further to welcome new PNWU Doctor of Physical Therapy students.
In addition, the college participates in the Yakima Valley Interprofessional Practice and Education Collaborative (YVIPEC), a group of Yakima area colleges and universities teaching students to work as a team with other health care professionals through classwork and interprofessional activities. By working together to solve simulated medical problems and interact with patients as a health care team, students leave the college prepared for future collaborations.
With class sizes of about 35, Yakima pharmacy students can really get to know all their classmates and professors. Pharmacy students take ownership of their learning process as part of our active-learning model; rather than large lectures, class time is used for self-guided learning and direct discussion with instructors and peers. Smaller class sizes allow for more face-to-face interaction with professors who are experts in their fields: meaning students can personalize their learning experience, focusing on those areas of pharmacy that most interest them.
On any clear day, Mt. Adams is visible on the Yakima horizon, the Cascade mountain standing as a testament to the natural vistas for which the Pacific Northwest is known. The Cascade Range is just one of the many destinations within easy reach of Yakima, with the more well-known Mt. Rainier being only an hour and a half drive away.
Located in the heart of Central Washington, the city is perfectly situated to give residents access to the diverse recreation of the Pacific Northwest and with 300 days of sunshine each year there is plenty of time to enjoy all of it. The proximity of the city to the East Cascade Mountain Range leaves outdoor enthusiasts with a multitude of scenic hiking opportunities many of which turn into snowshoeing and cross-country ski paths in the winter. For skiers and snowboarders, it’s just an hour drive to White Pass Ski Area. In the summer, area waterways open up a plethora of recreation possibilities ranging from white water rafting the Tieton or Little Naches rivers to fishing at Bumping or Rimrock lake.
As the tenth largest city in the state, Yakima has the amenities of a city, without the crowds. But anyone craving a day in the city can find themselves in Seattle, Washington in just two hours and Portland, Oregon in three.
Anyone taking a closer look at the Yakima Valley, will quickly find the scenery dotted with orchards and fields dedicated to a thriving agriculture industry.
According to the United State Department of Agriculture, Washington state is the primary apple producer of the United States and produced 73% of the nation’s hops crop for 2019. With the highest acreage of farmland in the state, Yakima county is responsible for approximately 33% of Washington’s apple production and 75% of hops. In fact, Yakima county has a 71% share of crop sales statewide. As a result, Yakima is home to a flourishing craft beer industry and residents have easy access to a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The area is also known for its wine. The New York Times even describes the region as having “Serious Wines and Sweeping Vistas” and with over 120 wineries in the valley the description is well-earned.
Amid the thriving agriculture industry of the Yakima Valley, the PNWU campus is perfectly positioned for students interested in working in a rural community. Every year student volunteers help to immunize the community at vaccination clinics in the area and have even been mobilized to respond to community health outbreaks.
The college has had faculty and students in Yakima since the 1990s building strong ties to the community. Before the Yakima Doctor of Pharmacy extension launched in 2015, WSU pharmacy faculty worked as pharmacists at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital and supervised pharmacy students who obtained practice experience there. Many WSU pharmacy alumni also live and work in the valley, often lending their time to train students.
For pharmacy students, entrepreneurship and compounding are vital skills, and ones where WSU Yakima students have excelled. Compounding is the art and science of combining appropriate ingredients to fit the unique needs of a patient. For example, instead of the traditional form of the pill, pharmacists may compound medications into the form of a lollipop or gummy bears for young children.
In addition, Yakima teams have placed in the top 10 in 2019 and first place in 2018’s annual Good Neighbor Pharmacy NCPA Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition. The national competition challenges students to create a feasible business model to either buy an independent community pharmacy or open a new one.
When our students finish their Doctor of Pharmacy degree, they follow a variety of paths. Some return home to make their mark in rural communities nearby. Some seek employment outside the area. Others go on to residencies and fellowships where they can further develop their leadership skills, improve patient care, refine skills, and advance their growth in clinical judgement. In recent years, the college has seen an ongoing increase in residency matches and 12 WSU Doctor of Pharmacy Yakima 2020 graduates went on to a residency.