Service learning is an integral component of the college experience for students in the Ohio Northern University College of Pharmacy as part of the University’s emphasis on developing well-rounded students who impact their professions and communities.

“Pharmacy is a profession that is focused on improving the quality of life for individuals. Therefore, it is important that our students gain experiences that allow them to put community service into action,” said Michelle Musser, director of community outreach in the ONU College of Pharmacy.

In her role, Musser coordinates service-learning efforts for the college. Students are required to perform at least 50 hours of service learning during their college careers, and many far exceed that threshold. Much of the outreach is achieved through the college’s 14 student organizations. Adding structure to these endeavors, Musser also teaches a course, “Introduction to service learning.”

Most of the projects involve the local region.

“These efforts are a winning situation for both the students and the organizations,” Musser said. “Students learn to work with people, as well as plan and organize events. The interpersonal skills they develop during these interactions are invaluable for success in the health care field. They are also best developed in practical settings outside of the classroom and labs. Further, pharmacy is a broad field, and these opportunities open up horizons to students while introducing them to various career paths.”

“The organizations, on the other hand, gain resources and are able to offer new programs that extend their reach and benefit the community,” Musser said.

Musser has a vested interest in the ONU College of Pharmacy’s outreach efforts, especially to the region. A native of Kenton, Ohio, she is involved in several community organizations, such as the Hardin County Family YMCA and Health Lifestyles Coalition.

“From this participation, I often learn of community needs, and I can then connect them with ONU student groups that have the necessary resources,” Musser said.

Musser has involved ONU pharmacy students in these local organizations, as well as area schools and community pharmacies.

The ONU pharmacy students are making a real impact as they utilize community service to improve the health of regional residents. More than 1,300 students were involved with a total of 261 events during the 2017-18 academic year. Of these events, 53 percent were performed in Hardin County.

Educational activities were the most prevalent activity, with students providing information to 5,903 patients. The future health care practitioners provided health screenings to 1,569 patients, including 550 immunizations, 414 comprehensive medication reviews and 370 preventive health screenings.

Participating students gain skills that bridge the classroom and labs with the workplace in their future careers.

Kenneth Barga, a fifth-year pharmacy student, has participated in more than 20 health screenings in the area, and the experience has added to his college experience while providing career preparation. “The screenings I have performed the last few years have allowed me to apply information I have learned into patient-specific scenarios,” he said. “These services have also taught me how to empathize with my patients as well as expand my professional network and learn from upperclassman.”

Courtney Fichter, a fifth-year pharmacy student, worked with the Kenton City YMCA and Kenton City Middle School on an outreach educational program involving 80 students.

“Outreach has added to my college career because it allowed me to get into the community, meet new people and network with the community agencies,” said Fichter. “Planning and executing outreach events has help me prepare for the lifelong service I will provide to my patients. We are able to apply our classroom knowledge, develop skills for our practical experience and have direct interaction with patients.”

Musser said, “At Ohio Northern, we emphasize to our students the importance of making an impact, and these outreach efforts are part of that effort. We want to be good neighbors who make a difference in the community.”