NEW YORK — The power of a professionally driven social networking and information platform is now within reach of pharmacists and pharmacy students. And students are taking a lead role in its development and growth.
The new network is called Pharmacist Society. It was conceived and developed as a Web-based networking, information and practice tool by pharmacist Ted Search, president of Skipta — a provider of networking technology for health professionals — and by pharmacy students and educators.
Thanks to a new partnership between Skipta and The Drug Store News Group, Pharmacist Society now is available to professionals and students via PharmacistSociety.com.
Pharmacy students have been key to the development and expansion of the concept. Search reached out to students two years ago, and, given his ties to the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, enlisted Pitt as the incubation site for the network.
It has been a fruitful collaboration. Pharmacy students at Pitt and other schools have taken leadership roles in bringing the Pharmacist Society concept to life, encouraging its adoption and spreading awareness about its value to other schools and pharmacy groups.
“Students now in pharmacy school started college with Facebook, so it’s second nature for them to use these programs,” said Brian Straub, national student president for the new networking site and a fifth-year student at Pitt’s school of pharmacy. Straub said the site isn’t intended to supplant such social networking sites as Facebook and LinkedIn. “It has a lot of that same powerful technology to communicate, but it’s on a very professional level, with tools tailored to pharmacy students and professionals,” he said.
“Most importantly as a student, we now have a central site,” Straub added. “So we’re using a portion of Pharmacist Society as our own secure student portal at Pitt, and within that, student organizations have their own dedicated sites with their own specific resources. This is the next step to a mobile world, and having that all being moved into Drug Store News is fantastic, because you have that connection to a provider of national pharmacy news and CE credits. So when you make that transition to the professional world, you’re not jumping out of the system you were using in school, you’re just transitioning with a great resource.”
Amanda Johnson, another student leader at Pitt, called Pharmacist Society “a great way to learn more about the profession and to network with those who have been through [school]. Right now we’re in a transition at our school from using an alternate student portal to using Pharmacist Society as our common place to go for the calendar, and for networking with alums and other professionals,” Johnson said.
Another early proponent was Megan Reilly, Pharmacist Society’s national student director of public relations. Reilly and other Pitt students enthusiastically provided Search “with ideas for things we wanted access to,” she said. “For example, we requested that pharmacy groups be on this site. We also wanted blog entries, access to scholarship opportunities and residency and job information.”
Early on, Reilly and other student leaders promoted the site within the Pitt community and beyond. “We even introduced the site overseas last summer at a pharmacy conference in Portugal,” she added.
With graduation looming, Reilly added, “I’m using Pharmacist Society to learn about careers ... and contacting people that I might not have had access to previously. I know it’s a safe and professional environment, so I feel comfortable reaching out to these people. In the future, I’d like to be able to use Pharmacist Society as my own professional portfolio.”
Also excited about Pharmacist Society’s potential is its national student director of operations, David Zimmerman, a fifth-year pharmacy student at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Zimmerman is helping spread the word about the new resource, both among faculty and students at USP, and within other pharmacy schools and professional organizations, such as the American Pharmacists Association and National Community Pharmacists Association. “It’s going to help students network for their future career, but also connect ... student chapters at different pharmacy organizations like NCPA and APhA,” he said.
Pharmacy educators also are embracing the concept. “One of the appealing characteristics of Pharmacist Society ... was that you had an opportunity to connect the students and the faculty in a social networking environment that is professionally oriented,” observed Michael Manolakis, assistant dean for planning and associate professor at Wingate University School of Pharmacy in North Carolina.
Manolakis also liked the fact that faculty advisers at Wingate and other schools maintain some “administrative control” over the content posted on the school’s own Pharmacist Society pages, which are privacy protected.