“My teaching philosophy is centered on the word why,” says Tyler Dougherty, PharmD, a faculty member at the South College School of Pharmacy. “If students just memorize everything, essentially answering the words what or when, they won’t learn how to apply that information to specific scenarios and specific patients. So I emphasize the word why. Why do we do this? Why is this important?”
When he’s not teaching, Dr. Dougherty researches medication adherence and literacy as well as practices at an independent community pharmacy called Clinton Drug Store. As the store’s clinical pharmacist, he has implemented a range of new services, including offering immunizations, diabetes education, and medication packaging and delivery. Most recently, the pharmacy has been providing and analyzing COVID-19 tests for the local community. Dr. Dougherty is also involved in the Tennessee Pharmacist Association, working to support practice advancement and legislation that supports the pharmacy field.
“Those experiences give me a unique opportunity to come to the school and say, this is something that the students can do that is new and progressive and that many pharmacists don’t even know is available,” he says. “I’m able to stay up-to-date and to teach about these things too.”
For Dr. Dougherty, one thing he enjoys about teaching at South College is that the faculty-to-student ratio allows faculty to get to know students and provide personalized support across the program. “We set up opportunities for many students to go home, not only to other states but also other countries, for their rotational experiences,” he explains. “We’ve seen a lot of success with them being able to perform well in those rotations and establish relationships with employers so that either the student can get a residency at those places or get a job back home post-graduation.”
In addition to their rotation experiences, Dr. Dougherty notes that students have the opportunity to earn numerous certifications within the program as well as get hands-on volunteer hours. “The number of voluntary patient care opportunities that these students have is impressive, whether it’s providing vaccines to patients at a clinic or checking blood sugar or blood pressure at the Tennessee Valley Fair. There’s a ton of opportunities for these students to be involved in the community,” he says. “Our faculty serve as preceptors during those events, but it’s really the students who get to shine and to impact hundreds of patients through things like screenings and counseling and medication take-back events.”
Likewise, the various certificate trainings available at South College help students to gain and demonstrate valuable, in-demand skills for professional pharmacy practice. Certificate opportunities exist in both required and elective courses, with students taught about and given the chance to earn certifications in areas such as immunizations, point-of-care testing, advanced cardiovascular life support, and diabetes management – to name a few.
Finally, another strength Dr. Dougherty notes is the interprofessional education the school promotes by working with students and instructors from physician assistant, nursing, and physical therapy programs, among others. “It’s pretty cool that we have all of those professions that we can work with. Healthcare right now is figuring out what all the players on the healthcare team bring to the table and how to utilize them for what they’re best at,” he says. “So we’re trying to increase communication across those professions and demonstrate to the students how each person can help the patient.”
As he looks to the years ahead for the pharmacy profession, Dr. Dougherty is optimistic that the field will continue growing and advancing in positive ways. “The pandemic essentially put kerosene on a fire in healthcare in terms of scope of practice changes and expansion of what people can do in our field,” he explains. “For example, pharmacists can now be the ordering provider for certain lab tests and immunizations. What pharmacy will look like in the next 5 and 10 years is changing.”