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D-PREP’s first graduating class

D-PREP logoA cadre of Des Moines high school students will graduate this spring from a three-year program aimed at increasing their knowledge of the health care field, especially pharmaceutical sciences.

The 11 students represent the first graduating class of the University’s Discover Drake: Prepare, Research and Explore Pharmacy (D-PREP) program, which was initiated by the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 2009. The program introduces students to pharmacy and other health care careers.

Participants are eligible for enrollment in D-PREP beginning their sophomore year of high school. Throughout the next three years they engage in college-level laboratory experimentation, tour an operating pharmacy, and attend learning sessions focused on college preparation for a variety of health care fields.

In one activity, the upcoming graduating class was introduced to lab work by using Drake’s new pharmacogenomics (personalized medicine) lab to extract DNA from strawberries.

“We’re really giving these students an insight into the work they’d be doing in a pharmacy or pre-professional university experience,” says Renae Chesnut, professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean of student affairs at Drake.

D-PREP participants meet for an all-day summer camp and two evening sessions each year. They must have a 3.25 grade point average when they sign up and are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA through the remainder of their high school career.

The program has grown by a few students every year since its inception. This year, 16 high school juniors and 19 sophomores are enrolled. The drugstore chain Walgreens has donated $8,000 annually to support initiatives at Drake, including D-PREP, that promote diversity in healthcare.

Drake’s pharmacy and pre-professional students have latched on to the program as a valuable learning and leadership opportunity. Approximately 50 of them serve as mentors to D-PREP students, sharing their own high school and college experiences.

“For Drake’s staff and students, it’s great to see the program participants as they learn and progress from year to year,” says Sara Bonney, admissions liaison and D-PREP program coordinator. “They learn so much about health care. But some of what they enjoy most is just having a chance to spend time on a college campus and immersing themselves in that environment. That’s very valuable to them, too.”