Whether you’re shopping at your favorite grocery or department store or happen to be visiting your neighborhood drugstore, you’ve likely needed to visit the pharmacy to pick up or refill a prescription. The pharmacist retrieves your order, tells you what you need to know about your prescription—if they haven’t already done so before—then rings up your purchase before sending you on your way.

And that’s all there is to the story of your local pharmacist…right? Not so, says Dale English, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and a professor at Sullivan University’s College of Pharmacy.

“I think the general public sees the pharmacist as the person in the community store, the community pharmacy. That is what, by many accounts, is a complete misperception of what a pharmacist is or does.”

According to English, there’s more to pharmacy than moving pills from a big bottle to a little bottle. Even the aforementioned act is more complex than first described, such as taking into consideration what’s going on with the patient, and explaining what the medications can and can’t do for them. From the clinical aspect to the business side—like billing a patient’s insurance for the prescription—those things the general public doesn’t see “are all part of the process of what pharmacists are doing in the community.”

“I think most people nowadays realize you do have to go to college to be a pharmacist,” English said. “But I think that most people don’t know how intensive the education for the pharmacist is. The best thing I can liken it to is that it’s very similar to the process to become a medical doctor or a physician.”

Generally speaking, a student studying to become a pharmacist will spend a minimum of two to three years in undergraduate studies before applying for entry into a Doctor of Pharmacy professional program, such as the accelerated three-year program offered by Sullivan University. In turn, the degree allows for a new pharmacist to obtain all of the credentials needed to become a licensed pharmacist on the federal and state levels.

“Sullivan is unique in that it is a professional degree program only for the Doctor of Pharmacy,” English said. “We do have a technician degree, as well, that’s an associate degree within our College of Pharmacy. But the only degree that Sullivan has, the only classes that one would take to actually be eligible for pharmacist licensure would be the Doctor of Pharmacy professional degree program.”

English says Sullivan’s program draws in students who have taken the prerequisite undergraduate courses for entry into the program from universities within and surrounding Kentucky, including the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University and Indiana University Southeast. He adds that Sullivan goes to great lengths to ensure the undergraduate foundation toward the professional degree is compatible with its program.

But what happens once a newly minted pharmacist goes out into the world? They don’t always land at your nearest Walgreens or CVS, for starters.

“If you receive medication in some manner or form somewhere, there’s a pharmacist that has been a part of that process better than 95 percent of the time,” said English. There are pharmacists that work at hospitals, work at home infusion, that work at long-term care, that work in the federal government, work in the military…The interesting thing that the general public doesn’t know is that a pharmacist can become a specialist in pharmacy just like in medicine. There are pharmacists that specialize in critical care, emergency medicine, oncology, infectious diseases. Many of the specialties these physicians go into have similar counterparts in pharmacy. I don’t think the general public generally knows those things. I don’t think that they’re aware of how knowledgeable pharmacists are, and how much of a wonderful resource they are. And most importantly, generally speaking, you don’t need an appointment to go see and talk to most pharmacists.”

Looking to expand your knowledge of pharmacy? Perhaps as a prelude to a new career? Then Sullivan University’s College of Pharmacy is where you need to be. The college offers a three-year accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy program in a student-focused experiential learning environment led by world-class faculty. For more information, click here.