Public Health Internships and Fellowships for Pharmacists
As of February 2017, there were 140 accredited pharmacy schools (full, candidate, or pre-candidate status) in the United States, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. New graduates are facing the reality of pharmacist saturation and the challenges of job hunting in such conditions. Due to increasing competition and sheer numbers of graduating pharmacy students, new graduates must often travel to smaller cities and towns in order to find vacancies.
Practicing pharmacists seeking a change from the roles they have held for years are also encountering similar challenges related to a job market that is starkly different from the one they used to know.
In part due to the struggle to find traditional pharmacist roles in the community or hospital setting and in part due to the genuine desire for nonclinical work, interest in non-traditional avenues for pharmacists is growing. Students are aiming to build their CVs and stand out from the large crowds by pursuing internships, research experiences, fellowships, and employment opportunities that vary from the norm, both during their pharmacy education and after.
Academia, managed care, and pharmaceutical industry internships and fellowships are commonly-considered alternatives to clinical training; however, public health internships and fellowships remain largely overlooked.
Training experiences in public health are superb options for students or practicing pharmacists with degrees in public health areas or with a strong interest in the field. Some pharmacists use the experiences as opportunities to learn knowledge and skills to supplement their clinical or community practice. Others use the experiences as gateways into public health practice.
Unfortunately, resources detailing public health internships and fellowships for which pharmacy students or pharmacists are eligible are highly lacking. Therefore, I’ve compiled the following list of reputable and prestigious public health internships and fellowships for pharmacy students and/or pharmacists.
This 4-6 week program based at the CDC in Atlanta, GA is designed to fill a requirement for the 4th year advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs) and is, therefore, only open to P4 students. During PSEP, students are exposed to the inner workings of the prominent federal public health agency and are able to witness firsthand how CDC pharmacists collaborate on multidisciplinary teams to prevent and control diseases. Students must submit their applications to their respective school’s experiential program coordinator.
Similar to CDC PSEP, only P4 students are eligible to participate in FDA PSEP. Participants are able to learn how FDA addresses public health issues regarding drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Students are also exposed to several related health institutions near Washington D.C.
The USPHS Commissioned Corps offers two internship programs for which pharmacy students are highly desirable: the Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (JRCOSTEP), and its counterpart, SRCOSTEP. Through JRCOSTEP, students are assigned to work in various agencies within the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – for example, CDC, FDA, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the Indian Health Service (IHS).
SRCOSTEP is an early commissioning program whereby rising P4s become Commissioned Corps officers in the USPHS and receive full active duty pay and benefits for the remainder of their schooling. In exchange, SRCOSTEP participants agree to work for their sponsoring USPHS agency for at least 2 times the period of funding received.