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12/17/2001

Residency Project Emphasizes Teaching Skills

Kate Traynor

Learning how to teach is an important skill that pharmacy-school programs often neglect, said pharmacy resident Valerie M. Castellani, Pharm.D.

Young pharmacy residents can find the transition from student to teacher disconcerting, Castellani said. Most residents, when thrust into the position of "being someone to learn from," are only a year out of school and just a year older than many of their students, she noted.

Castellani likened the experience of teaching without the benefit of formal training to "baptism by fire."

"Nowhere in pharmacy-school curriculum—or most residency curriculums—is there any formal teaching experience," said Castellani, who is completing her second year of residency training in drug information at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.

Gaining teaching experience makes good sense for pharmacists, she said. "Residents and pharmacists and faculty members all have to do teaching of some sort, whether it be formal didactic teaching or precepting students."

To address this lack of training, Castellani created a "certificate program" to boost the teaching skills of pharmacy residents at the university.

"We do a lot of teaching here at the University of Arizona as residents," she said. "I wanted to kind of highlight that for the residents and give them a little bit more training and experience."

Castellani said the program incorporated some of the elements already in place at the pharmacy school, such as the requirements that residents give three formal presentations and facilitate case discussions.

"A few of the things we added were weekly seminars on various topics...like writing test questions, writing objectives, different topics like that," she said. "And then we videotaped ourselves in the fall semester and in the spring semester to do self-evaluations."

Castellani described the residents’ reactions to the videotaping as "pretty good."

"No one enjoys watching themselves but, overall, everyone says it should be continued," she said.

"We have a lot of faculty out there who have never had any formal teaching experience," she said. "So either they’re just born knowing how to teach well or they’ve had the opportunity to observe other good teachers. But I think having programs like this while people are still in training will help improve the overall quality of educators."