Andy Mendez, who will be a junior at McFarland High School this fall and is interested in becoming a pharmacist, said his eyes were opened when he attended the UW-Madison Pharmacy Summer Program.

“It’s bizarre how many options you have,” said Mendez.

Mendez has been considering a career in the retail pharmacy field because he wants to help people and has the skills to assist Spanish-speaking customers because he has been a translator for his parents. But he thought he would seek advice from pharmacists at the summer camp.

The Pharmacy Summer Program is a four-day program for high school juniors and seniors who are interested in learning more about pharmacy careers and the UW-Madison Doctor of Pharmacy Program. The program’s recruiters target students from traditionally underrepresented groups in the health science fields.

Pharmacy Summer Program activities included lab activities to learn about medications and treatments of diseases and illnesses. The students also toured different types of pharmacies and the campus. Other activities included a blood pressure screening demonstration, talking with School of Pharmacy graduate students, hearing from pharmacy faculty and getting information on pharmacy school admissions.

Participants live in a university residence hall.

The camp helps raise awareness about a health career that is often overlooked, said Susan Tran Degrand, student services coordinator and director of outreach and recruitment in the School of Pharmacy.

“Pharmacy is not on many students’ radars,” she said.

Many students said they were not aware of how many careers exist in the pharmacy field.

Shreya Ramnath, an incoming senior at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois, was one of 20 students at the camp. She came in with a fair amount of knowledge because she had previously attended a pharmacy camp in Houston, Texas, volunteers at a hospital and completed a pharmacy tech internship. But she said the camp helped narrow her choices.

Maika Thao, who will be a junior at Menomonee Falls High School, said she came into the camp interested in becoming a pediatrician but has some interest in pharmacy.

“I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and get a feel for what it would be like,” she said.

Julia Pulokas, an incoming senior at Elkhorn Area High School who is interested in pharmacological research, said she liked taking part in the labs and talking to a number of pharmacists.

Duylinh Nguyen, an incoming senior at Sussex Hamilton High School who is most interested in neuroscience, said he learned aspects about the pharmacy field he didn’t know. What he found most surprising was the authority pharmacists have and their power to affect a person’s life.

“They really are the last defense,” he said.

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