For the past seven years, Washington State University pharmacy alumni have been sharing their wisdom and experience with the next generation of Cougar pharmacists as part of the Fred Meyer Alumni-Student Mentor Program. Through the program, alumni mentors guide students through the four-years of their pharmacy education and help them prepare for their future careers.

James Leonard administering COVID-19 vaccines at the Carroll county vaccine clinic. Photo courtesy the Carroll County Times.

In recognition of this influential work, each year the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) selects two mentors from student nominations for our Mentor of the Year award, recognizing those mentors who show a dedication to helping their mentees develop into outstanding health care professionals. For the 2020 Mentor of the Year award, the college has selected James (Jimmy) Leonard, class of 2016, and Tyler Fischback, class of 2009.

By sharing their own experiences, mentors such as Leonard and Fischback provide a roadmap for students to better navigate challenges and successes during their education and into their future.

Leonard explained that his own mentors inspired him to continue the tradition, “[My mentors] shared their successes, failures, and provided excellent insight into the full experience of working as a pharmacist. I try to pass this on and provide guidance to avoid my failures and set students up for success.”

Such mentor-mentee relationships can leave a lasting impact on students and alumni-mentors alike. In an ever-changing profession like pharmacy, these relationships supply a unique opportunity for collaboration, lifelong learning, and growth.

Tyler Fischback receiving his COVID-19 vaccine from his WSU Doctor of Pharmacy mentee, Trevor Schultz.

“Few relationships are as life-shaping as a strong mentor/mentee bond,” said Fischback. “In an era of independence being so highly valued we must not forget that there is a deep and sacred dependence on investing in the building up of one another’s knowledge and character through these bi-directional relationships. We must be compelled to create spaces for unrestrained idea sharing and open ourselves to seeing the world through a new lens.”

Here’s what their nominators had to say:

James (Jimmy) Leonard, Clinical Toxicologist at Maryland Poison Center in Baltimore, Maryland
Nominated by Kennedy Erickson, Spokane class of 2023

“Jimmy is the BEST mentor I could ever ask for. He is so caring, authentic, and gives very valuable advice. He has helped me prepare for interviews, pick out classes, and navigate pharmacy school. When I told him I was interested in psychiatric pharmacy, he got me in contact with one of his friends who is a psychiatric pharmacist. He has reviewed my research and gone above and beyond to get me in contact with pharmacists in the Olympia community.

I really cherish my monthly check-ins with him.”

Tyler Fischback, Clinical pharmacy manager at Confluence Health in Wenatchee, Washington
Nominated by Trevor Schultz, Yakima class of 2022

“Tyler has been a tremendous influence toward my success and confidence as a student pharmacist. We have regular discussions on the state of the pharmacy profession and health care in general. He is a down to earth guy, easy to talk to and I can tell he truly cares about my journey. Through talking with him, I have found a fresh outlook on the future of the profession and my potential role in being an advocate for the profession. He challenges me constantly and has inspired me to be the best pharmacist I can be. I hope to someday become a similarly strong leader and look forward to the day where I can inspire someone else in a similar fashion to be the best person they can be. Tyler has demonstrated strong leadership on our campus. He has traditionally taught one of our PY3 therapy lectures and has given at least one motivational presentation to students during a guest speaker event. He is ambitious and I can see more great things coming from him in the future.”


Learn more about WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences mentorship programs: pharmacy.wsu.edu/doctor-of-pharmacy/mentor-program/