Filling physicians’ prescriptions will be a big part of Justin Andras’ future, but already he feels he’s gotten exactly what the doctor ordered during his years at Stark State College.
“I feel like it was a ‘script’ written just for me,” he said of an education that readied him for his acceptance into the doctoral pharmacy program at Northeast Ohio Medical University.
A first-generation American, Justin grew up in Northeast Ohio. After he married at age 19, he heard of Stark State via word of mouth. “I wanted a school with small class sizes and instructors with higher degrees versus just teaching assistants,” he said. “I also looked only at schools that offered Transfer Assistance Guide (TAG)-approved courses. I came with the goal of transferring credits toward a higher degree.”
During his four years of classes at SSC, Justin also worked full-time as a manager at a landscape company.
“I loved the class sizes, loved the instructors,” he said. “They all went above and beyond. I’ll never forget (the experience) the rest of my life.”
Justin narrowed his interest in the health field through self-quizzes. “I tried to take a long-term view. What will I enjoy? What won’t I do? I love personal contact and interaction, but I couldn’t be a nurse. I absolutely love chemistry so pharmacy seemed a good fit. In fact, getting a doctorate in organic chemistry would be my second choice.” His requirements: Be in the health field. Do what he loves. Have a good job. “Helping people is phenomenal,” he said. “If every day I can have a hand in helping someone, that’s awesome.”
Justin was in on the ground floor of many of SSC’s newest science courses, including genetics and organic chemistry. His SSC education, he said, laid the groundwork for him to fulfill the stringent requirements for the highly competitive Pharm.D program, including required coursework, a lengthy interview and a high score on the PCAT (the Pharmacy College Admission Test) which Justin describes as like the medical school exam except more chemistry-based. The four-year doctoral program includes a final year of residency.
Ten other SSC students are now “in the pipeline” to continue their education at NEOMED, said James Treacle, SSC dean of sciences. An association with NEOMED, he said, “shows Stark State has quality courses and students who work hard and earn the right to be there.”
With his classes at Stark State, Justin was able to shorten his journey to a doctorate by at least two years, Treacle said. And, he added, Justin emerged well prepared. “He didn’t need a guaranteed interview; he won it on his own merit and was well above the average acceptance criteria.”
“I want to tell people, ‘You’re wasting your money by paying twice as much at other schools,’” Justin said. “I’m a firm believer in small class sizes. At a larger school you may be given a wealth of information, but here you’re also taught a wealth of information. The teachers are passionate about it; they’re not just going through the motions. They’re willing to do anything and everything to help you understand.
“I really felt like I was a getting a personal education.”
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