The College of Pharmacy’s new multipurpose Professional Development Laboratory in the Health Professions Center (HPC) at Western University of Health Sciences will provide a variety of learning opportunities for students, including compounding labs, mock pharmacy interactions and language lessons.

The compounding lab setup accommodates as many as 40 students, a significant increase from the lab’s previous location, which could only fit about 16 students at a time. The added space and new equipment will allow students to compound 12 products in a year as opposed to only four, said Sunil Prabhu, PhD, College of Pharmacy (COP) Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management and Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“Compounding is another option for student pharmacists to pursue,” he said.

“We try to get them motivated in compounding as a possible career choice.”

Students practice making many different products, including capsules, suppositories, medicated lollipops, lozenges and toothpaste. Compounding dates back to the origins of the profession. The genesis of pharmacy is the apothecary who created pills and capsules, said Jesse Martinez, PharmD, COP Vice Dean, Academic Diversity and Development. The physician wrote the order and the pharmacist would make powders that dissolved in water to remedy the patient’s illness.

“This is so much fun,” said Talia Tabaroki, PharmD ’14. “The fact that we’re simulating medicated toothpaste is very cool.”

The new lab is well equipped, said Wing-Sze Ip, PharmD ’14. By learning compounding, students will be able to provide customized products for their patients, such as adding different flavors so children will more readily consume them.

“Knowing how they’re made, you know better how they may act in the body,” Ip said. “As pharmacists, you should know how it’s made.”

The space became available earlier this year when some of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific facilities moved to the new Health Education Center. College of Pharmacy Dean Daniel Robinson, PharmD, envisioned a multi-use space for compounding, professional development and outreach programs.

“In today’s environment, having compounding skills is a real asset,” Dean Robinson said. “This will give them (students) a leg up in job opportunities.”

The lab has received grants from Target Foundation ($120,000), Walgreens ($50,000) and CVS ($4,000). Some of the money will go toward creating a contemporary language course. The language class, focusing on basic medical Spanish, will be taught as an elective to all pharmacy students, Dr. Martinez said.

The space also includes a mock pharmacy where students can hone their patient interaction skills. Cameras will record student responses to patient consultations, and can be played back live at the podium or reviewed in the professor’s office for grading. The lab also features sterile compounding using LMFA class 5 equipment with HEPA filters.

“We teach sterile compounding techniques and procedures, which is training required for hospital pharmacists,” Dr. Martinez said. “It really enhances the experience for our pharmacy students. The design was created by Dean Robinson, with the help of faculty. We have maximum utilization of this space.”