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(November 1, 2001, Gazette)

Leading by example

Richard Cashin
Photo by HSIMS

Pharmacy student Richard Cashin knew he was following a tradition of high achievement when he became actively involved in the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI) as junior representative.

“Megan Turner was my senior, and she taught me everything that she knew,” said Mr. Cashin. Including, as it turns out, how to win the Alti-Med/Pharmacy Practice Magazine’s Commitment to Care Award for Student Leadership, which was won last year by Ms. Turner.

It’s a first for Memorial’s School of Pharmacy to have two students in a row win this honour. Mr. Cashin will receive his award and $1,000 in early November in Toronto on an expense-paid trip.

While he’s pleased to receive the award, Mr. Cashin is quick to point out that it reflects well on the whole School of Pharmacy at Memorial. His major contribution in leadership took place last year when he worked to prepare pharmacy students for a new type of licensing test, known as the OSCE.

Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCE) have been used in licensing medical students for many years: they require administrators, standardized patient trainers, physician examiners, standardized patients and many support staff. The Faculty of Medicine has a Standardized Patient Program Office that works to prepare for exams and other educational experiences using standardized patients.

At an OSCE station, the standardized patient assumes the role of a real patient. “We were really scared to death of these exams,” explained Mr. Cashin. “It’s brand new to pharmacy and because all the students were so exceptionally nervous I did what I could with CAPSI junior rep Amy Flinn to pull together practice OSCEs to help students prepare.”

Mr. Cashin’s particular role was bell-ringer. “Students had to face the standardized patient while being observed by a ‘judge’ at the same time. After seven minutes the bell goes off and you have to move to the next room – it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a sentence!”

One example of a pharmacy OSCE is a standardized patient asking the pharmacist for wart removal products. “Instead of just saying ‘second aisle over there,’ the pharmacist – following standards of practice – would have to ask questions,” explained Mr. Cashin. “It might turn out that the product is not for the person, but for his brother, and his brother is a diabetic. Diabetics aren’t supposed to treat their own feet because of neuropathy. Now that’s something that this person might not realize, and it’s information the pharmacist should supply.”

Mr. Cashin said the pharmacist must constantly gather information. “Is this product right for the person, or is there a better one? There are so many drugs out there, there’s no way the average person can cope with them all, and that’s where we come in as pharmacists. It’s our responsibility to know.”

Mr. Cashin is a member of the Corner Brook Indian Band; he is pleased if his success serves as a role model. “It’s always nice to see one of us doing well.”

He came to Memorial’s St. John’s campus after graduating from Regina High School in Corner Brook. His first career aspiration was engineering, but after a work experience he realized he had moved away from engineering to become “people-oriented.” He also found himself more computer-oriented and focused on science courses, especially chemistry. He did well – so well in fact that he was accepted into the School of Pharmacy with the minimum two-year science requirements.

There is no doubt Richard Cashin will continue to do well, but there’s still one looming question to face – what happens after graduation this spring? “At first I thought of pharmacy as a first degree and thought that perhaps I would go on to do a medical degree. But now I’ve grown very passionate about pharmacy and I think I’ve found my niche in health care. One of the biggest things I’d like to push is having a solid working relationship with everyone on the health care team – physicians, nurses, pharmacists and social workers. We all have our role, and if one person is not there it tends to fall apart. The team approach is very important.”