By Lori Maricle, College of Pharmacy

SPOKANE, Wash. – A team of Washington State University pharmacy students demonstrated their business acumen this month as they captured the championship title in the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 2018 Good Neighbor Pharmacy Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition.

WSU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has a longstanding tradition for training practice-ready pharmacists who are prepared to lead tomorrow’s health care solutions. This was demonstrated on Oct. 6 when WSU student pharmacists Frank Nenninger, Chad Schmitt and Peter Tang presented their plan to leverage technology to meet niche health care needs in Washington state to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

The trio competed at the NCPA Annual Convention in Boston and beat finalist teams from University of Missouri Kansas City and Ohio Northern University. Their first place prize includes $3,000 to WSU’s NCPA student chapter and $3,000 contributed to the school in the dean’s name to promote independent pharmacy. The team’s members, advisor and dean also will receive complimentary registration, travel and lodging to NCPA’s 2019 conference.

“It seemed like a good chance to push myself and learn something new,” Schmitt said. “It was a great experience.”

National and international beginnings

All three students are part of the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences class of 2020 based in Yakima, Washington. Peter Tang was born in Chongqing, China, and moved to Seattle in 2010. He completed his undergraduate coursework at the University of Washington. Chad Schmitt is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and completed his undergraduate coursework at Western Michigan University. Frank Nenninger was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and moved to South Florida at the age of 10. He attended Florida State University before starting the pharmacy program at WSU.

“When I had my interview at WSU, I immediately loved the program. The culture of support and teamwork was pretty clear to see!” Nenninger said. “The business plan competition was a great experience. Peter knew that I was working on an MBA and asked me to join the team.”

Nenninger completed his MBA at WSU through the college’s Pharm.D./MBA program.

Merging innovative, old-fashioned strategies

Their business plan focuses on using both innovative and old‑fashioned strategies to expand access to health services and specialty care in the Yakima Valley. Innovatively, the plan leverages technology to provide patients in rural and underserved areas access to self‑service options online and through a mobile app for custom compounding, diabetes therapy management and education services. They plan to maintain trust and familiarity of their pharmacy name in the community through old‑fashioned customer service and community engagement.

“Advancing patient care and supporting entrepreneurial aspirations have long been key areas of emphasis for our program. We are so proud to have such exemplary students representing both of these elements on a national stage,” Linda Garrelts MacLean said. MacLean served as a WSU faculty advisor to the team.

Third title in 15 years

This is the third time in the 15‑year history of the competition that WSU has come out on top, taking first place also in 2006 and 2011.

Providing these types of opportunities for students to engage with leaders in the profession and gain recognition nationally are examples of how the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is dedicated to developing outstanding health care providers through a transformative academic experience. In at least 10 of the last 15 years, a team from WSU has placed in the top 10 or better, nationally.

The goal of the NCPA-sponsored program is to promote interest in independent community pharmacy ownership, which in Tang’s case aligned well with his own professional motivations.

“My personal goal is to gain ownership without a question. I will use the experience that I learned from our business plan to prepare myself as an owner in the future,” Tang said.

The 2018 competition drew participants from 34 schools and colleges of pharmacy across the U.S. and were judged by more than 50 NCPA members, Good Neighbor Pharmacy Business Coaching consultants, and various business leaders from across the country. The WSU team was selected as one of three finalists in July 2018.

Team faculty advisers were Clinical Assistant Professor Damianne Brand‑Eubanks in Yakima and Vice Dean for External Relations Linda Garrelts MacLean in Spokane.