Iron Mountain medical center receives funding for pharmacy residency program

Brianna Filtz, left, and Lindsay Christensen, right, Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center...
Brianna Filtz, left, and Lindsay Christensen, right, Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center pharmacist residents, check medications to ensure correct medication, LOT number, expiration date and only one tablet per pack at the Oscar G. Johnson VAMC pharmacy.(Robert Wollenberg, public affairs specialist.)
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 3:00 PM EDT
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Iron Mountain, Mich. (WLUC) - The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center has been awarded funding for two residents as part of an inaugural pharmacy residency training program.

“We are extremely excited to be the first ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists) pharmacy residency training program in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” said Ashley Lorenzen, associate chief of pharmacy. “This opportunity will bring learners to the rural areas of the state in hopes to train and retain excellent pharmacists in our area.”

The VA requires that all residency programs are funded through the office of academic affiliations, to which no new funding has been granted in more than ten years. Twenty-one rural VA sites nationwide were invited to apply for funding in 2021 to start post-graduate year-one residency programs with two positions each.

“I am ecstatic to have matched both positions, particularly for a brand-new rural residency in its very first year, with two stellar candidates and future pharmacists,” said Katie Zeier, clinical pharmacist practitioner.

Residents submit their applications to the programs of their choosing. A residency advisory group reviews applications and scores them based on a pre-determined set of criteria. Offers to interview are then extended.

“During the interview process, the pharmacy staff were incredibly welcoming and genuinely excited to have residents,” said Brianna Filtz, doctorate of pharmacy from University Wisconsin-Madison.

“They made it abundantly clear that they were interested in us personally and we were not just another number. I told all my family and friends that it was my top choice.”

“I loved how friendly and welcoming the pharmacy staff was during my interview and at the residency showcase,” explained Lindsay Christensen, doctorate of pharmacy from Ferris State University, Michigan.

“All these different factors are very important to me and that’s when I knew this residency was the right fit. The location of this program was a bonus, especially knowing I would be able to spend more time exploring the outdoors.”

During their last year of school, residents go on month-long rotations to shadow pharmacists from different practice types to learn what’s involved with each.

After graduation, residents are fully licensed pharmacists. However, similar to nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacist practitioners are independently able to see patients and modify medication therapy to help patients meet their health care goals.

“The goal is to keep the pharmacy residents on after graduation from residency and increase retention rates,” Lorenzen said. “We will recruit two new residents each year for the one-year post-graduate resident training program. Future goals would be to create a post-graduate year-two specialty residency in pain management and mental health.”

A residency is not required to get a job but helps pharmacists gain further education and practice-based learning to covet higher-level clinical positions.