Students who are planning to be pharmacists will be able to take advantage of a new two-year pre-pharmacy program at the University of Montana. The courses are designed to "fast-track" students toward a UM Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

It's called the GrizRX Assurance Program and qualified freshmen are reserved a seat in the first-year pharmacy class, and will get extra mentoring from faculty, along with research opportunities, according to the UM News Service. Oh, and there's a $1,000 annual scholarship, too.

Professor Marketa Marvanova, UM School of Pharmacy Dean, said in a news release, "Many times, we have found that students interested in becoming pharmacists don't take the correct course prerequisites for the Doctor of Pharmacy program or think they need to complete a degree before applying to the program. This costs them money and more importantly, time. We designed this program to provide a direct path from high school to the pharmacy program."

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Seven students are in the first such program. They must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA and log 20 or more hours of pharmacy observation. And when they complete degree requirements in six years, the Doctor of Pharmacy degree also offers entry into other fields such as home care, veterinary and oncology. First-year student Ecy Flores of Sidney said the initial semester included courses like chemistry, anatomy and calculus.

UM plans to increase the size of the assurance program to 20 students and is actively recruiting interested students. Rachel Zins, pre-pharmacy coordinator, said, "The pandemic also has shown the important roles pharmacists can play in public health crises," The department reports that upon graduation, 95 percent of the students are employed and at least 70 percent of the graduates then practice in Montana.

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