Yakima Valley College

A student walks past Glenn Anthon Hall on the Yakima Valley College campus. (Shawn Gust, Yakima Herald-Republic file)

Yakima Valley students can now complete all prerequisite courses for a Doctor of Pharmacy program without leaving the area.

Yakima Valley College has introduced a new pre-pharmacy track that will enable students to take required courses for Washington State University’s Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Sam Mazhari, a chemistry instructor at Yakima Valley College who spearheaded the effort, said he’s seen other community colleges offer a similar track. It’s not unusual for a student to complete a doctorate and become a pharmacist without earning a bachelor’s degree.

“The bottom line is a portion of (doctor of pharmacy) students don’t have a bachelor’s; all they need is the prerequisite courses,” Mazhari said.

Mazhari has been working with Damianne Brand-Eubanks, a clinical assistant professor at Washington State University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, to develop a pre-pharmacy track since 2015. During that year, the school launched its Doctor of Pharmacy program on the campus of Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Terrace Heights.

Previously a student would have had to complete the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the WSU campus in Spokane.

The Yakima-based Doctor of Pharmacy program has already admitted students who completed many of their prerequisites at Yakima Valley College. Those students still had to go to Central Washington University, WSU Tri-Cities or other community colleges in Western Washington to complete courses not offered at YVC, Brand-Eubanks said.

“We have a lot of place-bound students who are not able to leave and go to a four-year college, even Central (Washington University),” said Brand-Eubanks, who is also the director of student success for the WSU Doctor of Pharmacy program in Yakima.

A student who completes the pre-pharmacy track will have 107 quarter credits, or roughly 71 semester credits. By completing those classes, the student will have the prerequisites for the WSU program as well as enough credits for an associate degree.

Coursework includes a wide variety of math and science classes. Mazhari was able to establish a pre-pharmacy track by adding one course— an upper-level biochemistry course — to YVC’s offerings.

The track is expected to take around three years to complete with a standard course load, Mazhari said. Those students not taking classes on the pre-pharmacy track can start in winter quarter in January.

Completing the pharmacy program doesn’t guarantee admission to the WSU program. However, most or even all the credits should easily transfer to other schools, which would allow a shift to a different education path, such as a bachelor’s degree in the sciences.

“All these doors are open to them,” Mazhari said.

Brand-Eubanks said the coursework being offered through YVC’s pre-pharmacy track is just as rigorous as the courses completed by students at a four-year college or university.

She noted that one student who came from YVC and is now in the Doctor of Pharmacy program was part of a team that ranked in the top 10 of a recent national business plan competition.

“The folks we’ve received through YVC are outstanding students,” Brand-Eubanks said.

Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or Twitter @maiphoang