Newman pharmacy students soar into the real world

Nov 01, 2022
Sarra Gutknecht

Newman University’s pre-pharmacy program is designed to help students build a foundation for future success in the pharmaceutical industry.

Three members of the Newman community exemplify just that.

Jenny Nguyen

Jenny Nguyen’s grandfather aspired to be a pharmacist, but the obstacle of finances got in his way. 

“While he lived in Vietnam, he attended pharmacy school, as it was his dream, but could not finish the program because he could not afford his full pharmacy education,” Nguyen explained. “He is one of the most hardworking people I know, and from a young age, always encouraged me to seek higher education. When I graduated from pharmacy school, not only did I fulfill my career goals, but I felt his dream had also come to fruition.”

Jenny Nguyen's grandparents wear her graduation gown and hold my PharmD for a photo. (Courtesy photo)
Jenny Nguyen with her grandparents, who are wearing her graduation regalia. (Courtesy photo)

Nguyen attended Newman University from 2014 to 2017 for her pharmacy school prerequisites, after which she attended The University of Kansas School of Medicine for her PharmD.

Nguyen recalled Assistant Professor of Chemistry Alan Oberley in particular having an impact on her at Newman — one that truly changed the course of her life. 

“As a freshman at Newman, I disappointed myself academically and was rethinking my career goals and went to Dr. Oberley, my adviser, for feedback,” she said. “If not for him, who told me to stay motivated and keep going, I would have made a radical career change.”

Today, Nguyen works at Gibson’s Pharmacy in Dodge City, Kansas. One of her coworkers happens to be fellow Newman alum Jordan Doan.

Jenny Nguyen and co-worker Jordan Doan, another Newman graduate! (Courtesy photo)
Jenny Nguyen and co-worker Jordan Doan, another Newman graduate. (Courtesy photo)

While she enjoys her role there, she aspires to one day work in a setting centered around managing patient health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and asthma.

One highlight from Nguyen’s career thus far was when she participated in Career Day at a local middle school. 

“Gibson’s was asked to present to students what a career in pharmacy would look like, so our team created a short presentation with a relay race incorporating aspects of pharmacy workflow,” she said. “It was awesome to see how interested students were to learn about the field of pharmacy and to see how much fun they had with the relay race. One student’s team won the relay race and she said, ‘Wow, I want this job,’ and this moment still brings a smile to my face.”

Denver Shipman

Newman alumnus Denver Shipman ’11 has his uncle, a pharmacist, to thank for inspiring him to become one himself.

“It seemed like a good mix of science and getting to know and help people,” Shipman said. “He was able to help out individual patients, but also help in a broader scope through some of his volunteer work for communities hit by natural disasters. I saw this and learned that pharmacy was a career where you could apply science in a practical manner to help people.”

Denver Shipman and his wife (courtesy photo)
Denver Shipman and his wife (courtesy photo)

Shipman’s journey to the field of pharmacy began at Newman. He learned of the university and its strong science program through his high school biology teacher, a Newman alumnus. Shipman was also recruited to the lacrosse team the university had at the time.

While a student, Shipman felt all the science faculty contributed to his success, but chemistry professors John Leyba and David Shubert especially stood out.

He added, “Rosemary Niedens [then director of the ASC Community Leader Scholarship program] was the largest influence on my goals both professionally and personally and how I view my role in the community. I really do believe Newman has something unique with the program and being involved with that program has helped me succeed.”

Shipman was also involved in Newman’s chemistry club and environmental club, and played violin in the strings ensemble and pep band. He graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.

I learned that pharmacy was a career where you could apply science in a practical manner to help people.

Denver Shipman, 2011 Newman alumnus

Currently, Shipman works as a clinical pharmacist practitioner specializing in behavioral health at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. His main job duties are direct patient care, and he spends most of the day meeting with patients, discussing their symptoms, prescribing medications and making referrals to treat their conditions. Shipman is also involved in a few hospital committees, cost-savings initiatives and helping start new programs for improving quality of care.

While Shipman has accomplished a lot in his career thus far — he started an elective course on service learning and leadership in pharmacy while a professor at University of Texas at Tyler and published a study on the role that treating anxiety and depression have on reducing asthma symptoms, to name a couple — one of his biggest goals is to help start a psychiatric pharmacy residency at the VA.

“There’s a large unmet need in mental health throughout the state, and pharmacists can help meet the need with proper training,” he said.

Sarra Gutknecht

Sarra Gutknecht was first led to the field of pharmacy because she enjoyed chemistry and wanted to help people.

More importantly, though, she had seen firsthand how much of an impact medication can have on people’s lives, for better and worse.

The combination of these things resulted in her becoming passionate about pharmacy.

She originally chose to attend Newman because she was recruited to the women’s soccer team. She found it was a bonus that the university also had a great science program.

Sarra Gutknecht (courtesy photo)
Sarra Gutknecht (courtesy photo)

Gutknecht studied pre-pharmacy at Newman, was involved in the Newman University Medical Professionals Club and tutored.

While many people have impacted Gutknecht’s life thus far, biology professor Michael Bradley stands out.

“He was a lifesaver, and I honestly don’t know how I would have figured [the pharmacy school application process] without his help,” she said. “He also convinced me to have confidence in myself and assured me that I would be fine during the whole interview process.”

Gutknecht did not graduate from Newman, however she was admitted into pharmacy school just 15 minutes after her interview — an especially impressive feat, professor Oberley said.

Gutknecht is now in her second year of pharmacy school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita campus. She expects to graduate May 2025, after which she hopes to become a clinical hospital pharmacist.

She’s currently in the midst of an internship with Wesley Healthcare, where she’s mainly doing technician duties like running medications around the hospital and compounding for oral syringes.

“Although since I do have an intern license, I get to do medication reconciliations for our patients in the hospital, which is gathering information about the medications that they take at home and putting that information into the system,” Gutknecht said. “I would say that is what I spend most of my time at Wesley doing.”

Entering the pharmaceutical industry

The pre-pharmacy program at Newman University is designed to give students the skills and knowledge necessary to enter medical school.

With one-on-one attention from the faculty, and the opportunity to shadow anywhere from 100-200 hours, students will gain a better understanding of the chosen medical field.

Earn a Pre-Pharmacy Degree

Take steps to build a foundation for future success in the pharmaceutical industry at Newman University.