January 14, 2019
UNE’s College of Pharmacy counts on alumni to help teach its current students.
“It's essential that our alumni are very engaged with our students; they really are critical,” said James Krebs, Pharm.D., assistant dean of Experiential Education. “They are the real mentors because our current students see them as successful.”
Some alumni are more than willing to share their time and expertise.
“They are definitely always eager to help out and give back to the College of Pharmacy,” commented Justin Richards (Pharmacy, ’19). “They fully understand what we know as a baseline and how our faculty taught us.”
Richards recalled a trip last year to Thailand when alumnus Jonathan Balk (Pharm.D., ’13) led students on an Advanced Pharmacy Professional Experience (APPE).
“This one definitely sticks out because we had an alumnus travel halfway around the world just to help teach us,” Richards explained. “It was definitely a different level of involvement.”
Balk is now a clinical specialist II and the coordinator of the Longitudinal Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiential program at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.
“I was a part of the inaugural class for UNE’s College of Pharmacy, and I witnessed the blood, sweat, and tears that went into ensuring our class succeeded,” he stated. “Seeing how invested the faculty were in us as students, it instilled a desire to reach out after graduation and help once I was established professionally.”
Balk was one of the first to go to Thailand as a UNE student.
“He went as a student and saw what we do there, what worked and what didn't work,” said Richards. “He was then able to go with three or four years of clinical experience under his belt and teach us.”
In a blog about the trip, Richards wrote: “At the beginning of this trip I never imagined I would meet a complete stranger half-way around the world that would shake my understanding of pharmaceutical practice and life beyond school in such a positive way in just two weeks.”
According to Richards, the trip involved a lot of travel. He said he learned the most from Balk during that down time.
“He brought all kinds of material from his school experiences and from his precepting,” Richards explained. “He engaged us and trained us in things we will have to know and prepared us for the things we were going to see in the field in the United States and Thailand.”
Richards said other UNE students on the trip were impressed by Balk’s dedication as well.
“He really made a big impact,” Richards said. “I think all the students not only appreciated him, but they were extremely grateful he was on that trip.”
Balk said he enjoys being a mentor, but he also learns from the students.
“I gain valuable mentoring experience, but I also get an influx of new ideas from the students,” he said. “I get to see how the profession continues to change from the roots.”