FDU School of Pharmacy students win NJSHP College Bowl

Order from left to right in the attached picture: Dr. Elif Özdener, Thomas Le, Shana Szymborski, Jessica Cacace, Jibran Khawar, and Dr. Julie Kalabalik.

For the first time, Fairleigh Dickinson University Pharm.D. students won the College Bowl at the New Jersey Society of Health-System Pharmacists Annual Meeting.

The event took place in Long Branch, NJ on April 13, 2018, and FDU defeated teams from Rutgers University and Touro College of Pharmacy. FDU students have been competing in this College Bowl since 2013.

The winning team consisted of Thomas Le, Shana Szymborski, Jessica Cacace, and Jibran Khawar.

The competition is a knowledge-based, Jeopardy-style competition where the students are read the question, and try to buzz in first to have to chance to answer the question. The teams compete two at a time and the winning team progresses to the next round until two teams meet in the final round. Questions cover contemporary pharmacotherapy and pharmacy practice. The first place team was awarded $100 per person. A total of six teams from the three schools competed.

In order to compete for FDU, students must first compete in a preliminary round within the School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.

“I am really excited about our School’s big win! This win is a testament to the hard work our students and faculty put forth in preparation for this competition,” said Elif Öz , assistant professor of pharmacy practice.“ Dr. Julie Kalabalik and I are very proud of this great accomplishment and look forward to working with our students in future NJSHP events and competitions.”

Kalabalik was equally excited.

“As a faculty co-advisor for this student organization, I am ecstatic with the results of the competition,” said Kalabalik, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and pharmacy practice division director. “My co-advisor, Dr. Elif Özdener, and I as well as several other faculty at the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences assisted the students in preparing for the competition. This win truly showcased the hard work of our faculty and students. I am proud of all the students who represented us at this annual competition and those who attended the NJSHP Annual Meeting to support their fellow classmates and faculty members.”

Le was pleased with the win, but also just to be selected to compete and represent FDU.

“It was an honor to be selected to compete by our advisors and to have a chance to represent FDU,” said Le. “After having attended the past two NJSHP annual meetings, and knowing that we as a school hadn't performed as well in this competition previously, it feels great knowing that we are putting our pharmacy school on the map here in NJ.”

Khawar, who will graduate this year, wanted to see how he would stack up against his fellow competitors.

“For me, competing in the NJSHP was a chance to represent the university and to test myself,” said Khawar. “I wanted to see my progress since the start of my APPE rotations and where I currently stood in my preparations for the NAPLEX and State Boards.”

While Szymborski was nervous, that may have made the victory even sweeter.

“I had no idea what to expect that day and feared letting everyone down,” said Szymborski. “However, some of the things you fear the most end up being the most memorable and rewarding. If my team members and I didn’t step out of our comfort zone to participate, there could be a chance we wouldn’t have won. I am really proud of all of us.”

Additional honors

The College Bowl team members were not the only winners at the meeting. Dean Michael Avaltroni was the recipient of the Advancing Pharmacy Practice Excellence (APPEX) Award. The award is given to a distinguished leader outside the field of pharmacy who has collaborated with pharmacists to advance patient safety and care by promoting best practices.

Thomas Le not only was part of the College Bowl team, he also was awarded the Dean Sciarrone Student Award, which included a $1,000 scholarship. Recipients must demonstrate interest in advancing pharmacy practice in a health system setting and show leadership skills and a record of organizational involvement.