Learn something new every day

For College of Pharmacy professor Celeste Caulder, every day should bring some new piece of knowledge. 

At the end of the day, I remind my students and myself if one doesn’t leave having learned something new for the day then they have not done their job,” she says.   

One of Caulder’s key goals is to teach her students in the classroom and during their clinical rotations how to be lifelong learners. They will need that ability to learn something new every day as they venture into the field of pharmacy where there is not always one single right solution to a problem. 

“We can teach the students the basics in the classroom, but I can promise, they’re not going to learn everything they need to know about pharmacy in the classroom,” says Caulder, who has been teaching at the University of South Carolina since 2006. “Most of the questions they are going to get asked in clinical practice are not the black-and-white questions with a straightforward answer in a textbook.  

The gray area is where we often live in clinical pharmacy.  While this makes most students uncomfortable at first, it is truly a gift to watch their comfort and confidence grow as they progress through the curriculum and into their clinical rotations.  The gray area of medicine sometimes drives the students crazy.” 

Caulder’s job is to teach budding pharmacists how to use what they have learned in the classroom, from textbooks and the sea of medical literature and apply it in real-world situations, where every case, every patient is different.  

“There may be two or three answers that I will accept that are right and that drives some students crazy. They want that one right answer,” she says. “Until you’ve been out in clinical practice, it’s hard to understand, but you develop your own style. It’s the gray area that you extrapolate information from the literature and apply it to your specific patient scenario, whether it’s a patient in the hospital or a case in the classroom.” 

These clinical experiences are key, Caulder and her students say, to making a pharmacist. 

“As a preceptor, Dr. Caulder always challenged us to know our guidelines and focused on evidence-based medicine,” fourth-year pharmacy student Karan Patel says in his nomination of Caulder for the 2019 clinical teaching award. “She was never intimidating and every time I was not able to give an answer, she would allow me to look up the answer and follow up with her. By the end of the rotation, not only was I comfortable with working up a patient but I felt confident in offering recommendations to physicians.” 

Caulder says in addition to teaching students how to create pharmacotherapy solutions for their patients, she tries to teach them about the real working world. There is a lot of informal mentoring and role-modeling as well as, building relationships with her students. 

“I think it’s important for us to set our students up for success in their future career, but they also need those life lessons: how to manage their time, prioritize their responsibilities and make tough decisions when it comes to things like balancing work and home life,” Caulder says. “I think helping them to transition into that next chapter of their life is also important.” 

For Caulder, coming to South Carolina offered her a good balance of scholarship, research and service in a cooperative rather than competitive environment.  

“There are many opportunities to collaborate with colleagues within the College of Pharmacy, but also other health science disciplines,” she says. “That sense of collegiality comes from the top down.” 

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