Pharmacy students win national competition

A  team of three Northeastern pharmacy students took first place in a national clinical pharmacy challenge, besting student teams from 90 other U.S. schools of pharmacy in a test of their clinical knowledge and ability to solve complex patient cases.

Sixth-year pharmacy students Matt Lord, Libbi Rice and Adam MacLasco passed through four online rounds in August and September to win the chance of competing in the finals on Oct. 20-22 in Hollywood, Fla. The challenge was part of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy’s annual meeting.

In the quiz-bowl format, student teams faced three kinds of challenges comprising trivia/lightning rounds, a clinical case competition and a “Jeopardy!”-style contest. The challenge covered a range of health topics, including oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics and transplant medicine.

“The Northeastern pharmacy curriculum really prepared us for this competition,” Lord said.

The Northeastern trio has been friends since freshman year, and the students credited team chemistry as a critical factor in their ability to work together to complete the tasks. They also attributed their success to their education that has combined classroom learning with real-world experience.

Rice noted that each team member’s strengths shined through in the competition. For instance, she said the team distinguished itself on the last day of the competition during one round in which students were presented a case involving a patient hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. Prior to the competition, MacLasco had just completed a six-week rotation at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital’s cardiac surgery intensive care unit, an experiential learning opportunity that helped the team formulate a comprehensive response to a life-threatening condition.

“The information and situations I encountered during this rotation were unlike anything presented while in classes,” MacLasco said.

Lord and Rice, for their parts, also benefited from their experiential learning opportunities. Lord completed a co-op with the pharmaceutical company Novartis, and Rice finished an internal medicine rotation at the Veterans Affairs hospital in West Roxbury, Mass.

John Devlin, associate professor of pharmacy at Northeastern and the team’s advisor, said he was impressed with the performance, adding that the competition gave the pharmacy students the chance to grade themselves against the nation’s best.

“The content in the challenge was far beyond what sixth-year pharmacy students often face,” he said. “These were tough questions, and the judges were amazed at how much our students knew.”