Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Sciences building, WSU Health Sciences

As one of the first four areas of study approved by the Board of Regents in 1891, pharmacy has a long history at Washington State University (WSU). But today’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) looks very different than the original School of Pharmacy. Where once the program was housed on the Pullman campus, now the college is centered on the WSU Health Sciences campus in Spokane, Washington, with an extension in Yakima.

Even before WSU set up its first Spokane office in 1989, the pharmacy program had ties to the community. In a time where experiential education and practice rotations were not yet the norm for a pharmacy education, professor R. Keith Campbell worked to develop WSU pharmacy rotations in Spokane area hospitals. The college implemented its first experimental rotations model in 1969; by the 1970s, clinical rotations were being rapidly adopted all over the country.

As the WSU Health Sciences campus developed, the pharmacy program was split between Pullman and Spokane, with students, faculty, and staff regularly traversing the 70 miles between the two campuses. That is, until November 2013, when the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Building was completed on the Health Sciences campus and the college moved into its new home.

Now, the program is no longer split, but instead has two full Doctor of Pharmacy locations in Spokane and Yakima, Washington where students can personalize their pharmacy education through direct interaction with faculty experts in just about any field students may be interested in. As the college’s history in Spokane grows, we are taking a moment to reflect on what makes our Spokane campus so special.

Here are a few things you may not have known about our Spokane campus:

1. Students learn alongside other future health care providers
Where once there was nothing more than rail yards, now lies a vibrant green campus dotted with white coats and crimson scrubs as CPPS students move between classes alongside future Cougar nurses and physicians from the WSU College of Nursing and Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

Located in downtown Spokane, students from the WSU Health Sciences campus have easy access to nearby hospitals, clinics and health centers where they can gain clinical experience. As the largest medical hub between Minneapolis and Seattle, Spokane is the ideal place for pharmacy students to be exposed to the latest diagnostic and therapeutic care in all fields. WSU Health Sciences is further equipped with Core research facilities to further the research goals of students and faculty across the campus.

Pharmacy students spend much of their time learning hands-on in a full compounding lab, the R. Keith Campbell Applied Patient Care Lab, mock pharmacy, and may even spend one of their fourth-year Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations in the Drug Information Center answering questions from health care providers across the state about drug interactions, side effects, usage and other drug-related topics.

Left: 1948 / Right: 2014

2. Home to our PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Molecular Medicine program
The Spokane campus is also home to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Molecular Medicine program. Through rigorous coursework and extensive laboratory research, the PhD program prepares future generations of pharmaceutical scientists to make breakthroughs in the advancement of human health.

Most of a PhD student’s time is spent pursuing a research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor contributing to groundbreaking research in drug discovery, delivery, and development. CPPS PhD students have helped make strides in research investigating everything from how likely an individual will develop an addiction based on his or her own DNA to new ways of using nanotechnology to deliver drugs to the brain to treat tumors.

Students can also engage in both pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences coursework through electives or the PharmD/PhD dual degree program at the college.

3. Campus is a short walk from all the best things Spokane has to offer
In the heart of downtown Spokane, the WSU Health Sciences campus borders the Spokane River and students looking for a few minutes of fresh air between classes can quickly find themselves in the focal point of downtown Spokane, the Riverfront Park.

The park sits on the original location of Spokane’s Great Northern Railroad Depot and still houses the depot’s clock tower, built in 1902. The railroads were replaced by the park in preparation for the 1974 World’s Fair in-keeping with the environmental theme of the Expo. The Pavilion tent-frame from the event stands today as one of the most recognizable symbols of Spokane.

Visitors to the park find natural majesty intertwined with the city’s history. Just across the river from the clock tower sits the 1909 Looff Carrousel. A few steps away is the Spokane Falls SkyRide, the gondola cars allowing a close-up view of the Spokane Falls. Wandering the parks many paths and walking bridges, guests are accompanied by the constant presence of the river and murmur of the falls.

Spokane’s Riverfront Park

4. There is so much to do!
Just across the road from the Riverfront Park is the thriving metropolis of downtown Spokane. As the second largest city in Washington, Spokane has all the amenities of a big city ranging from music venues, to museums, to an up-and-coming food scene. In the last 10 years, the city has become especially popular for its cottage industry of craft brew beer, and the thriving community of local artists and creatives.

Want to catch a glimpse of Spokane before visiting the campus? Check out all the movies that used the Lilac City as their backdrop or “Downtown” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

According to Livability’s Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2019, “Spokane is a perfect mix of urban and natural, which means the options are endless.” And we’d have to agree.

With more than 100 parks, 76 lakes in the Spokane area, five ski resorts within a two-hour drive of downtown, and plenty of hiking and biking trails, the city offers a variety of outdoor recreation year-round. While enjoying the outdoors, anyone keeping their eyes peeled might even see a bald eagle, a moose, or any of the diverse wildlife that calls the area home.

5. Students have an impact on the community
Pharmacy students show a dedication to community involvement that goes beyond their WSU experience. Outside of the college, students have donated their time to aid Covid-19 testing efforts.

Pharmacy students further work with the WSU Health Sciences Office of Community Engagement & Service Learning to get involved in the community at events such as free immunization clinics and health screenings at schools, health fairs, and homeless shelters. Through these activities, students gain valuable hands-on experience with patients in the areas of pharmacy that most interest them. Student leaders have also set up projects to further help those in need from improving women’s health to alleviating poverty in under-served areas.

To prepare them for all of these civic engagement opportunities, all second-year pharmacy students complete our point of care testing curriculum and APhA vaccination training certificate program.

WSU student volunteers at a drive-thru testing site.

6. Students influence change
WSU pharmacy students make an impact beyond Spokane’s borders as well. Students have learned to be leaders and advocates for the profession, working to find ways to expand the opportunities for students such as themselves.

Recently, one WSU pharmacy student, Joanna Gourley, proposed the addition of a student to the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists (ACVP) national board, giving pharmacy students across the nation a voice in the organization. They took her proposal to heart, making Gourley herself the first AVCP student board member.

Another pharmacy student, Brandy Seignemartin, championed a bill, which in turn changed Washington state law, to allow pharmacy, nursing and medical students to be supervised by preceptors from any of those professions while volunteering. The new law gives students in health care easier access to experiential learning with mentorship and facilitates and makes it easier for them to participate in community health fairs and vaccination clinics.

7. Graduates go on to do great things
When our students finish their Doctor of Pharmacy degree, they follow a variety of paths. One class of 2017 graduate even returned to the college last winter to talk about his career in Medication Management. Another has been teaching the WSU Veterinary Pharmacy elective since her graduation in 2017 while working at the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Veterinary Medicine as the residency director for the Clinical Veterinary Pharmacy Residency program and pharmacy manager at UW Veterinary Care. Others have gone on to a variety of fields, or instead chosen to pursue 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 34 WSU Doctor of Pharmacy Spokane 2020 graduates went on to a residency.