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NMSU celebrating 10 years of cooperative pharmacy education with UNM

New Mexico State University’s partnership with the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy is celebrating a decade of successful collaboration.


Three women in blue shirts
From Left: Traci White, assistant program director; Amy Buesing, program director and Deb Franzoy, program manager. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

The UNM/NMSU Cooperative Pharmacy Program is a joint venture of NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences and UNM’s College of Pharmacy to produce more pharmacists for southern New Mexico, said Amy Buesing, the program director at NMSU. To date the program has graduated 21 students with doctor of pharmacy degrees and nine are currently practicing in southern New Mexico.

“We recruit high-school students and once a student is accepted into our program, they complete three years of pre-pharmacy coursework at NMSU and are conditionally accepted at the UNM College of Pharmacy,” said Buesing.

In addition to Buesing, the program is administered by Traci White, assistant director, and Deb Franzoy, program coordinator.

Students will complete three years of didactic pharmacy coursework at UNM and one year of advanced experiential training rotations before earning their doctor of pharmacy degrees.

“Recruiting efforts are focused on students interested in sciences or healthcare. Many already know some about medicine and nursing but are often surprised when they hear about the various opportunities available within the pharmacy profession.” said White.

Buesing said the Cooperative Pharmacy Program generally accepts at least 10 students each year. Applicants eligible for the program are limited to Catron, Chaves, Cibola, Curry, DeBaca, Doña Ana, Eddy, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Quay, Roosevelt, Sierra, Socorro, Torrance and Valencia counties.

“Many of the students in the program will do a portion of their final year at UNM back in southern New Mexico, working in nine one-month rotations in various pharmacy settings,” said Buesing.

These pharmacy settings frequently include pharmacies at clinics, hospitals, retail locations, drug information centers and hospice, said Buesing.

Brittany Haggard is from Carlsbad and went to UNM after completing her three years at NMSU. She is in her final year of pharmacy school and will graduate in May of 2018 with her doctorate.

“It was so helpful to have Ms. Buesing, Dr. White, and Ms. Franzoy available to lead me through my undergraduate studies,” Haggard said. “The number one thing I appreciated the most was their help in choosing my coursework and recommending appropriate electives that would benefit me in pharmacy school.”

Former dean of the UNM College of Pharmacy John Pieper and former state representative Joni Gutierrez (District 33, which includes Las Cruces), whose father was a pharmacist and UNM alumnus, came up with the idea for the program and received funding from the state legislature to implement it.

The program is housed in the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at NMSU.

"The program has provided a wonderful opportunity for our students over the last 10 years,” said Beth Pollack, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator for the NMSU portion of the program. “Amy Buesing, Traci White and Deb Franzoy, who nurture these students, do a excellent job of mentoring them and ensuring their success.”

Buesing said the commitment of the program’s staff, as well as the small number of students enrolled, provides for personalized advising for the students.

Because many of the co-op program’s students come from small, rural towns, the individualized attention students receive from the program’s advisers can help ease them into bigger-city life.

“We’ve helped quite a few students with homesickness and gotten them through that first semester,” Buesing said.

The co-op program is open only to students who apply as high-school seniors from schools in the previously mentioned counties. Students in the co-op program are also able to receive a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies from NMSU after their second year of pharmacy school.

“So in addition to their doctorate in pharmacy at UNM, their work here can earn them a second degree,” Pollack said.

NMSU students who aren’t part of the co-op program but want to apply to UNM’s pharmacy school typically pursue an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry and are encouraged to join NMSU’s Pre-Pharmacy Society.

The society regularly participates in community service. These serve as opportunities for the students to improve their communication skills, a vital component of being a pharmacist.

“One of the most important roles of a pharmacist is to teach about medications to patients and customers,” said Buesing.

Haggard said she could not be more excited to finish her pharmacy degree and become a pharmacist, which she has wanted to be since she was a little girl.

“I am so lucky I was chosen to be a student in this program,” she said. “It was truly a dream come true.”

For more information about the UNM/NMSU Cooperative Pharmacy Program and the NMSU Pre-Pharmacy Society, visit https://cpp.nmsu.edu/.