Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Pilot Common Reading Experience to Integrate Basic and Clinical Sciences in Pharmacy Education

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Pilot Common Reading Experience to Integrate Basic and Clinical Sciences in Pharmacy Education

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Common reading experiences have increasingly become a staple for incoming freshman at many universities over the last few decades. (1) In these assignments, matriculating students read and discuss a text with peers and faculty members in forums intended to foster conversation about controversial issues. In some schools, the program is an integral part of orientation activities, and recently, undergraduate institutions have used common reading experiences as initial events in a series of activities that include films, plays, and library exhibits. Common reading experiences are expected to encourage intellectual discourse among participants and promote higher academic standards. (2) Detractors of common reading experiences often criticize book selection committees for choosing texts that appear to further liberal causes, do not challenge the reader, or attempt to mitigate the low academic standards found in secondary education systems in a "shotgun" approach. In undergraduate systems, success of the common reading experience is a frequently measured metric, as reflected by reductions in the dropout rate between the first and second years of college. (3)

Given that students entering healthcare professional schools typically have several years of undergraduate education that may culminate in a degree, common reading experiences in a healthcare degree program may have fundamentally different goals than that of their undergraduate counterparts. Literary review has long been used in medical schools to "humanize" the foundational science courses. (4) The University of Durham in England established a Centre for Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine, and the University of Massachusetts-Worcester Medical School has used reading programs for the last 9 years. (5,6) Some reading programs in healthcare colleges have encouraged students to reflect on uncommon life situations, issues of diversity, or the definition of "families." (7) Few medical, nursing, or pharmacy schools or colleges use a defined common reading experience, but some medical schools use book-club formats (University of Massachusetts, Yale, Columbia). Regardless of the design used, reflective reading of narrative literature in training healthcare providers may lead to increased ethical and compassionate treatment of patients by using a "hidden" curriculum to shape thinking processes and awareness of the future provider. (4,7)

In the fall of 2010, the University of Kentucky initiated a pilot common reading experience for incoming first-year pharmacy (P1) students. The pilot was designed to be a novel methodology of using a summer reading assignment to introduce basic and clinical sciences outside and independent of the core curriculum. This activity was intended to establish a culture of thoughtful academic discourse, introducing students to ethics in health care, raising awareness of disparities in healthcare delivery, and encouraging open and instructive relationships between students and faculty members.

The book selected for this trial was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The text is a non-fiction account of the struggles of a poor, African-American woman from Virginia who was diagnosed with cancer in the 1950s. The book documents Henrietta's struggles with the healthcare system, the unauthorized use of her cancer cells for science, and the effect of these events on her extended family. The book never specifically mentions a pharmacist or healthcare team but satisfied all of the intended objectives of this common reading experience. Active discussion and reflection centered on the concepts of health disparities, ethical principles, and basic science found in the text were expected to encourage students to embrace foundational classes in the first-year curriculum, engage them in meaningful conversations with peers and faculty members, and help develop a sense of compassionate care. The objective of this work was to design and assess a common reading experience that introduces concepts related to ethics in healthcare and research, basic science concepts, health disparities, and health literacy. …

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