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AEC Develops Program for Pharmacy International Students

KU’s School of Pharmacy is taking an extra step to ensure that international pharmacy students can communicate complicated and important information clearly to their clients. Working with the Applied English Center (AEC), selected students will spend a month making their English sound more familiar to Americans in a community pharmacy.

An essential part of a pharmacist’s education are clinical clerkships that send PharmD students to work in pharmacies and hospitals around the state of Kansas, acquiring practical experience with medical professionals, pharmacy practitioners and patients. Occasionally students have trouble communicating during these rotations. This language is a highly specialized way to use English; it’s technical and also has to be familiar sounding.

To help students succeed, the School of Pharmacy asked the AEC to develop a high-intensity class that meets two hours twice per week for one-on-one instruction. Marcellino Berardo, AEC associate language specialist, designed English for International Students in Pharmacy for students that the School of Pharmacy has identified would benefit from the special course. Berardo worked with one student during the pilot program in February.

As part of the course, Berardo “relies on his ignorance” about pharmaceuticals when he asks the student about a medication, its side effects and purpose. With adjustments to phrasing, word stress and rate of speech, the student gains a heightened awareness of pronunciation, tone and body language. The student has made more progress than Berardo expected; she recognizes that this is important and will make her a better communicator.

This program has been a learning experience for Berardo as well. He has become more aware of interactions with pharmacists, calling what they do a science and an art. “It’s not easy to look at a label and explain it in real time with simple, straight forward language. You need to practice,” he said.

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