Michelle Musser, '05; Pharm D, The Ohio State University, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University
So many people I speak to, friends, family and colleagues, often express some regrets about their undergraduate institution and education, whether it be issues with faculty, classes, campus or activities. I can say, without a doubt, that I have absolutely no regrets about my time at Ashland and would not be the person I am today without the experience. The combination of the unique educational experiences, personal attention and extensive campus involvement made my four years at Ashland very enjoyable and helped prepare me professionally. The focus on teaching and personal attention that I experienced as a student while at Ashland University is something that I try to emulate as a current faculty member in hopes that my students have a college experience like I did.
Why did you choose Ashland University for your pre-professional program?
I originally was looking to go into forensic science and thought the toxicology program would be a good undergraduate major to have prior to going into a master’s program, as it was unique compared to a biology or chemistry major. The only other comparable program in the state was at Ohio University at the time, so Ashland was a much better fit for me, as I was looking to attend a smaller university. It was during my sophomore year at Ashland that I decided to pursue a career in pharmacy after my undergraduate education, as I was looking for a career with more of a patient focus. Even with changing over to a pre-professional program, the toxicology major offered a unique background for a pharmacist and provided relevant content in pharmacology, so my major did not change with this shift. Aside from the distinct toxicology program that Ashland offered, as I mentioned I was looking for a smaller university that offered a “personal” feel, where I felt teaching would be the focus for faculty. Ashland offered the small class size, dedicated faculty and personal attention I desired.
Where did you complete your graduate program?
Ohio State University College of Pharmacy
How did your pre-professional program help prepare you for your graduate program?
Primarily, my program offered an excellent education and appropriate background for my graduate program. As I had mentioned, my major is unique and gave me a distinct skill and knowledge set among my fellow students in pharmacy school, which ultimately was important after graduation when applying to my post-graduate residency program. I am now currently a faculty member at a college of pharmacy and the background I obtained from Ashland University continues to give me a unique perspective among the pharmacy faculty, something that I am now able to pass on to my students as an educator.
What did you like most about your pre-professional program (certain classes, research, faculty, etc.)?
In my toxicology program, I was able to complete a self-directed, animal-based research project. Although I do not participate in this type of research now, having this opportunity expanded my personal experience in the basic sciences, giving me a more robust understanding than your typical pharmacy student, which in turn truly helped me be a more successful applicant, student and pharmacist. This, along with my chemistry background, including quantitative and instrumental analysis, has helped me understand basic science research and helped me apply basic science to clinic pharmacy practice, an essential link that is often tedious for pharmacy students. These classes, although not required for admission to my pharmacy program, helped make me a more “well-rounded” student, which only added to my success in pharmacy school and in my career.
How did Ashland University help you when searching for and applying to graduate schools?
Much of my search and application process for pharmacy school was self-directed. At the time, I did not feel there was ample support from the university as far as pre-professional programs and, in fact, my only meeting with a “counselor” regarding my application to pharmacy school (I do not recall this individual’s name) was rather discouraging. I was told the curriculum required for my major would not be adequate for pharmacy school applications. I feel this individual was misinformed or unaware of pharmacy school applications and admission processes. As I have mentioned previously, my background was actually an asset during my application process and education. So I am pleased that the university is working to improve their pre-professional programs so that current students do not have the experience I did. I can say, without a doubt, my professors in the toxicology (Dr. Karen Stine) and the chemistry departments (Dr. Jeffery Weidenhamer, Dr. Matthew Arthur, Drs. Rebecca and Perry Corbin) were very supportive, not just as teachers, but during my application process by writing letters of recommendations and being interested in my future career. Again, the personal attention I sought from Ashland University was truly embodied by the faculty at that time in my career.
What type of work are you doing in your current position?
I am currently a faculty member at Ohio Northern University College of Pharmacy. After finishing pharmacy school I completed a post-graduate year 1 (PGY-1) pharmacy practice residency, which focused on both ambulatory care practice at a physician’s office-based disease state management clinic and teaching at Ohio Northern University. After my residency was complete, I accepted a visiting professor position with ONU and eventually an assistant professor position. I teach in multiple courses including pharmacy practice courses, therapeutics courses and coordinate a capstone module that is offered to students just prior to clinical rotations during the student’s last professional year. I also maintain an active practice in ambulatory care at my previous residency site as well as a contingent position at a local hospital. I get to work with students not just in the classroom, but also interns at my institutional site and students on clinical rotations at my ambulatory care site.
Did Ashland University help you reach your career goals? If so, how?
Absolutely! Aside from the excellent education that I was provided at Ashland University, as a pharmacist who is in academia, my experience at Ashland University built the foundation for the type of educator I want to be. Teaching focused, practical, dedicated and enthusiastic are all adjectives I would use to describe many of my professors during my time at Ashland and I strive everyday to emulate these traits.
Were you involved in research as an undergrad at Ashland? If so, what kind, and how did it prepare you for graduate school and for your career?
My only research involvement was the research completed as part of the toxicology coursework that I have mentioned previously. As I have mentioned, this experience was important in helping me gain admission to and excel in pharmacy school.
How satisfied are you with your overall pre-professional program experience at Ashland University?
I was very satisfied with the education I received as well as the attention and dedication of the faculty I had the honor of learning from. I have mentioned I did the majority of searching, research and preparation for graduate program applications on my own and any advice I had received from individuals at the university was not helpful or downright discouraging. There was definite room for improvement in regard to the support from the university for pre-professional students at the time. I think asking alumni to speak about their experiences indicates that this is changing, which I believe is a definite step in the right direction. Again, the main source of support in my pre-professional program came from dedicated faculty members, which was much appreciated.
What would you tell a prospective or current student about the pre-professional programs at Ashland University?
I would tell them mainly my thoughts about the university and science programs in general. In the science programs, they will find a caring faculty, who are focused on teaching students. At the U\university, they will find programs, like the toxicology program, that offer unique perspectives and experiences that will be essential while applying to and attending graduate school. The campus itself offers a wide range of activities also for the “full college experience.” I do not think this should be discounted for a pre-professional student, as extracurricular involvement is a very important tool in building a successful application to graduate school as well as developing into a professional. I was involved in Greek life, cheerleading and honorary organizations during my time on campus and took away not only wonderful memories and life-long friends, but experiences that built an essential foundation for time-management, organizational and networking skills that are necessary for a professional career. Moreover, the faculty members encouraged students to be involved on campus, which I think speaks to their support and interest in their students. Moreover, I would also mention that during my time at Ashland, I had several friends in other pre-professional programs, some of whom attended review classes to study for admission tests outside of class time or did other extensive preparations for admission to graduate school. The faculty members were very caring and thoughtful in supporting these students in their endeavors, even though it was outside of their “classroom” time, again speaking to the overall caring environment that was fostered at Ashland University.