UST Prepares Students for Pharmacy School
Since high school, Tam K. Nguyen has worked toward his goal of becoming a pharmacist. He became a licensed pharmacy technician before college and then worked in the field while studying biology in the pre-pharmacy program at the University of St. Thomas. After graduating from UST in May 2011, Nguyen is set to attend the University of Houston College of Pharmacy in August.
Nguyen is one of 14 UST pre-pharmacy students who have successfully matriculated into pharmacy schools throughout Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma over the last five years.
The University of St. Thomas has become a popular college destination for Vietnamese-American students who are looking for a university with small classes that embraces diversity and offers strong pre-health programs. Nguyen and fellow UST pre-pharmacy alumni Nancy Mai and Amy Dinh are all Vietnamese-American students who learned about UST through their Vietnamese community. They were among the 13 percent of Asian students in the UST student body, many of whom study in the pre-pharmacy, pre-medicine or pre-dental tracks.
Nguyen first visited UST during a retreat with his confirmation class from Vietnamese Martyrs Church, taught by a Vietnamese Dominican Sister. Mai learned about the University from a cousin who attended and Dinh took Vietnamese culture classes hosted at UST during middle school.
Ly Phan, a psychology instructor and 1998 UST graduate, formerly advised UST’s Health Occupations Students of America club. She said a significant percentage of Vietnamese-American students pursue health professions.
“In the Vietnamese culture, parents like their children to go into the health fields,” she said. “We place a higher priority in medicine above other professions. We have a lot of respect for doctors, nurses and others in the health professions.”
Dr. Larry Nordyke, professor of biology and director of the health professions program, said the pre-pharmacy track guides students to take the prerequisite courses required for pharmacy school. Nordyke said 65 percent of UST students who applied to pharmacy school between 2006 and 2010 were accepted.
“Our students make it a successful program,” Dr. Nordyke said. “I think the rigor of the education they get here, particularly in the sciences and because of our core curriculum, means these are good students – they can read critically, they can write effectively and they’re ethical.”
Tam K. Nguyen
Nguyen has been working as a pharmacy technician at CVS/pharmacy for two years. With acceptance into pharmacy school, he has been promoted to the company’s pharmacy internship program where he will continue to learn the skills of the trade.
He said the UST pre-pharmacy program provided a strong foundation for his studies.
“I felt the curriculum at UST prepared me well to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test and for the curriculum I will have in pharmacy school,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said his academic experience and his extra-curricular involvement were both beneficial in being accepted into pharmacy school. He said UST has an active Vietnamese student community on campus. The Vietnamese Student Association hosts events throughout the year to reach out to the Vietnamese community.
Nguyen co-founded UST’s chapter of HOSA. He served as a board member at the state level during his senior year, traveling throughout Texas to talk to high school students about their options in the health field.
“I feel your experience as a leader and in extra curricular activities has strong weight with the admission process,” Nguyen said. “The admission committee wants to see you have passion for a specific field, and that you will give back to your community.”
Nancy Mai, who graduated from UST in 2010, is attending UH College of Pharmacy after earning a UST degree in Chemistry. In addition to Organic Chemistry and Quantitative Analysis, some of her favorite classes also included Ethics and Christ and the Moral Life.
“I really like how we had to take philosophy and theology classes, because they give you a good understanding of morals and ethics,” Mai said. “I think it’s important, especially in the health field. It makes you realize your decisions will affect someone else, so you have to do the right thing.”
Amy Dinh also wants to help others as a pharmacist. In 2005, she began studying at UST for three years until she had enough pre-requisites to attend pharmacy school. Now, as a fourth-year pharmacy student, she is considering geriatric pharmacy as one of her options.
“My grandmother is elderly, and she heavily relies on one pharmacist for all of her medications because the pharmacist speaks Vietnamese. Because I am bilingual, I feel like I could bridge that gap.”
Learn more about the Pre-pharmacy Program or call Dr. Larry Nordyke at 713-525-3169.
In the group picture above are alumni who have entered pharmacy school: Amy Dinh; Andy Nguyen ’11, a chemistry major who will enter UH College of Pharmacy in August; Nancy Mai ’10; and Van Phi Huynh ’09, a biochemistry major attending Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy in Amarillo, Texas. Tam K. Nguyen ’11 is pictured separately.