During the OzTREKK Orientations at JCU Townsville this past February, we met JCU Pharmacy School’s Bachelor of Pharmacy Year 2 Coordinator Dave Herron, and Years 3 & 4 Coordinator Ian Heslop. After guiding us through a lovely tour of the school’s facilities, both coordinators agreed to answer some questions to help future JCU Pharmacy students learn more about studying at JCU and in the tropics!
Mr. David Herron and Assoc. Prof. Ian Heslop of JCU Pharmacy
What are your roles at JCU Pharmacy School?
We currently have three academic advisors: Mrs Tori Llewelyn – BPharm level 1; Mr David Herron – BPharm level 2; Associate Professor Ian Heslop – BPharm levels 3 and 4.
The academic advisors have both an academic and pastoral role. Their role is to help students with any problems that they may have which could potentially impact their studies and, if necessary, refer them to the various support agencies available at the university.
We also monitor and counsel Bachelor of Pharmacy students who have academic issues and deal with some student disciplinary issues. Fortunately, we do not deal with many disciplinary issues. The academic advisors are a very multinational bunch: Tori is originally from Canada, Ian from the UK, and David is the token Australian.
Do you work with many Canadian students?
The number of Canadian or international students varies year on year; however, the Canadian students are usually the largest group of non-Australian students in each year level in the JCU Bachelor of Pharmacy pathway. The number varies between 2 and 11 students per year. However, because the number of students in each year level is relatively low compared to other Australian universities (we have about 60 pharmacy students per year level), there was one year where a quarter of the students were Canadians. Therefore, you could say we have had a lot of experience dealing with Canadian students.
I am pleased to say that overall, the experience has been positive for both the students themselves and for the academic staff. Being slightly older than the average Australian student, the Canadian students generally progress well through the degree pathway and mix well with the Australian students and the Townsville community. They are generally well-liked both within the university, in the local community and importantly, by the local pharmacy profession.
What do the international/Canadian students seem to like the most?
From a study perspective, we have an integrated curriculum at JCU, and the Canadian students appear to enjoy this approach. In particular, they appear to enjoy the clinical integrated subjects. They also enjoy the North Queensland lifestyle as North Queenslanders have a very similar outlook of life and share a similar sense of humour. They also enjoy the diverse range of travel opportunities on offer, both when on clinical placement and when on holiday.
The JCU placement program offers a wide range of community, hospital and rural pharmacy placements throughout Australia and into the wider Pacific area. Townsville and North Queensland is in the Australian tropics and offers ready access to the Great Barrier Reef, tropical rain forests, and the Australian Outback, and many students take the opportunity to visit and experience these regions while they are studying here.
Find out how you can study pharmacy at JCU
What is challenging for Canadian students to adjust to?
Townsville is in the Australian tropics, and because the academic year starts in February, some Canadian students initially find it a little uncomfortable leaving a Canadian winter only to arrive in Townsville in the tropical wet season. However, the students acclimatise very quickly, and also within a month or two the wet season ends, and so the humidity drops. The rest of the year, the climate is very pleasant, about 25–30 degrees Celsius during the day and it rarely rains. Many students like the idea of wearing shorts and T-shirts in the middle of the Townsville “winter.” That said, it is best to pack at least one sweater just in case it gets “chilly” as it has been known to drop to 10 degrees Celsius some nights in the middle of “winter” here.
What should Canadians know before they start the program?
In the JCU Pharmacy program you will be in a small group. This has major benefits from an educational perspective and with placement opportunities etc. However, it does mean that students cannot hide. Staff and other students will know your name and will expect you to participate in class. The student organisation (JCUPSA) is also very proactive both at local and national levels, and many previous Canadian students have played an active role in this organisation as well.
What happens during pharmacy orientation?
At the start of the academic year, all students participate in both a JCU and a JCU Pharmacy orientation program. Students are introduced to the university and pharmacy program, their subjects, and the academic staff. Student mentors and JCUPSA also play an active role in this orientation program and the program also contains a number of social events which students can participate in.
Inside the JCU Pharmacy School facilities
Any tips or suggestions for prospective students?
Again, because our cohorts are relatively small, the JCU Pharmacy academics are very approachable and willing to answer any questions that you have, so take advantage of this. If you have questions, contact the academic advisors. Once offered a place, it is best to contact staff early to organise any issues relating to applications for credit for advanced standing. This will help organise your enrollment before the start of semester and prevent any delays, problems, confusion or missed classes once semester starts.
Bachelor of Pharmacy at JCU Pharmacy School
Program: Bachelor of Pharmacy
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Semester intake: February
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: While there is no set application deadline, applicants are strongly encouraged by the university to submit their applications before the end of September for the February intake.
James Cook University’s Bachelor of Pharmacy program applicants are required to have completed their high school diploma. Applicants should have completed Grade 12 English, Chemistry, and Math to meet program prerequisites.
If you have commenced or completed a university degree or any post-secondary studies, your most recent studies will be assessed in terms of your grades. If you have not completed the necessary prerequisite subjects in your post-secondary studies, your high school transcripts will then be assessed for prerequisite subjects.