SDS + PharmD = Success!!!

Written by Karen Gessler on May 23, 2022

I'm an Educational Specialist in the PharmD program at Wayne State University. We have all types of students in our program. Just to clarify - yes, I mean we have ALL types. We have tall students and short students. We have students whose primary language is not English. We have students who live with their families and students who live on campus. We have students who are great public speakers and students who are working towards overcoming their shyness. We have students with ADHD, dyslexia, slower processing speeds, and anxiety disorders. We have students with various learning disabilities, low vision, serious medical conditions, and deafness. It takes knowledge, skill, and immense dedication to be a pharmacist. The last thing we want is for a disability to interfere with this process!

Every year, our program admits several students who come to us with accommodation plans from Students with Disability Services. For these students, it is so important for us to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure that their identified disability is not interfering with their learning, or our assessment of that learning. We are far from perfect, but I'd like to think that we have come a long way towards better meeting the needs of our SDS PharmD students.

The PharmD program has two identified people that work closely with our SDS students, I am one of those people. My partner and I review each student's SDS accommodation plan, make sure the plan remains current, and collaborate with SDS counselors when changes to that plan are needed. We have created a separate space for our SDS students to take their quizzes and exams in our offices. This allows these students to remain in our building and eliminates the need to travel to main campus. Our assessment room lets these students take their assessments at the same time as the rest of the class, which is really important to us. It affords us the opportunity to provide a safe, distraction-reduced environment for students to use for whatever time that they need.

My partner and I also collaborate regularly with these students' course coordinators. We keep them informed of what students in their course have accommodation plans, and provide the specifics of those plans. We work with the instructors to ensure that exam proctors are available for these students during their exam time. Overall - we want to make sure that the students' needs are met, thus reducing the impact their disabilities may have during the assessment process. Sometimes our SDS students' needs exceed exam accommodations. When that is the case, we work with instructors to modify learning environments and instructional methods so that the disability doesn't interfere with learning.

I am so proud to be part of WSU's PharmD program! I am thankful to work with individuals who not only understand the role Students with Disability Services plays in some of our students' lives, but dedicate time, space, and resources to making this happen! Sometimes students face a temporary situation where accommodations are required, sometimes it is a permanent situation. Whatever the situation, I believe in doing all that we can do to ensure that learning is equitable for ALL of our students. All it takes is a little communication, compassion, organization, and understanding.

Karen Gessler:

Karen Gessler is an educational specialist working at the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Science. She has been a significant ally for the students with disabilities at the pharmacy school.