Pharmacy students training to fill rural health care gap

WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has accepted five students into the rural health track. These first-year students will be the inaugural class in the track and will undergo specialized training and education in rural health care. Upon their graduation in 2025, they will be equipped with the skills, tools, and network needed to work in a rural setting.

“We look forward to working with this small group of talented students. Health care providers in rural areas face a unique set of challenges. This includes advising patients on how to access care if they don’t have phone or internet services, or if the nearest health facility is a two-hour drive,” said Angela Stewart, Associate Dean of the Rural Health Initiative. “Pharmacists are often the first line of care for many rural communities, and we want to arm these students with the knowledge and skills for when they return back to a rural community.”

Along with their current coursework building on the fundamentals of pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, these students will also learn about the demographics, ethnicity, and employment of the diverse populations they will serve. Their rotations in a rural setting will give them knowledge of working with physicians, nurses, and other care providers in various rural settings. This includes rural hospital systems such as critical access hospitals (CAH) with 4 to 20 beds which provide limited inpatient and outpatient care, as well as community pharmacies. Students will also learn how to advise patients on ordering medications as well as how to access pharmacy services after hours.

This initiative was launched thanks to a $2.2 million gift to Washington State University’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) by an anonymous donor, which will increase opportunities for PharmD students to focus on the health care needs of residents in rural Washington.

Learn more about the inaugural class and their backgrounds, upbringing, and inspiration to work in rural health.

Amanda Whitehead

Age: 33
Campus: Spokane
Hometown: Eatonville, Washington
Professional Background: Emergency room technician, volunteer firefighter and EMT (emergency medical technician), lead medications aid and nursing assistant
Education: Associates in Science with Honors, Spokane Community College
Professional Interests: Tribal and veteran’s health

 “Living in a close-knit, small town has always been a great comfort to me and I would like to support the people in my community in my future pharmacy career in a rural area.”

Bradley Brown

Age: 22
Campus: Yakima
Hometown: Rochester, Washington
Professional Background: Behavioral health technician, English teacher for non-English speakers at Centralia Community College.
Education: Associate of Biology, South Puget Sound Community College
Professional Interests: Tribal health

“My best days are when I feel like I’ve made a difference in someone’s life. It’s times like these when my job doesn’t feel like a job, and I want to have that feeling for the rest of my life. For these reasons, I am pursuing a career in patient-centered care in a rural setting.”

Catalina Yepez

Age: 29
Campus: Yakima
Hometown: Prosser, Washington
Professional Background: Outreach and recruitment specialist for Columbia Basin College
Education: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Washington State University
Professional Interests: Community health care

“I hope that the rural health track will allow me to become a stronger liaison for Spanish-speaking and underserved communities while bridging the health care gap.”

Chase King

Age: 21
Campus: Spokane
Hometown: Normandy Park, Washington
Professional Background: Head lifeguard and lifeguard instructor, pharmacy assistant
Education: Pre-PharmD Coursework with Honors, Washington State University
Professional Interests: Community pharmacy

“As a future pharmacist, I hope to provide care in isolated towns, traveling door-to-door, counseling patients, delivering medicine, and helping with any other medical conditions.”

Michael Sauseda

Age: 40
Campus: Spokane
Hometown: Chico, California
Professional Background: Special forces intelligence manager, special force instructor, special forces senior medical sergeant
Education: Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, University of West Virginia, Charleston; Associates General Education with Honors, Fayetteville Technical Community College
Professional Interests: Tribal and veteran’s health

“I am applying for the rural health track because it serves the underserved reaches of community, which has been a consistent driving motivation throughout my life. Our motto as a Special Forces Operator was De Opperesso Liber which translates to, “To Free the Oppressed.”