Through donor-funded scholarships, School of Pharmacy PharmD students pursue their dream careers
By Katie Gerhards
Sean Baltes is now in his third year of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy’s PharmD program. But just a few short years ago, he was beginning his career with a fresh Bachelor of Science in business management and human resources. His first role was in a hospital system in Kenosha, Wis., where he soon felt pulled in another direction.
“I wanted patient interaction and to be a member of the healthcare team,” Baltes says, so he transferred to become a pharmacy technician.
“I quickly fell in love with the field of pharmacy, whether it was preparing sterile products or helping my pharmacists troubleshoot problems they ran into,” he says.
“Scholarships provide financial relief to students and open doors for others who might otherwise not have the opportunity to attend pharmacy school.”
Pharmacy school became his goal, but with his recent investment in a bachelor’s degree, the financial aspect posed a challenge. Thanks to the generosity of the School of Pharmacy’s alumni, Baltes — like 138 other PharmD and Pharmacology and Toxicology students at the School — received a scholarship to make his dream a reality.
“Scholarships provide financial relief to students and open doors for others who might otherwise not have the opportunity to attend pharmacy school,” he says. “They break down financial barriers and ensure that education is accessible to all, regardless of their background.”
Broad student impact
With support from the School’s donor-funded scholarships, student recipients are able to engage more fully in their education and professional development.
“Receiving the Melvin and Patricia Weinswig Scholarship has given me the opportunity to pursue more extracurricular opportunities by permitting me the financial freedom to reduce the hours of my internship,” says Baltes, who spoke at the 2023 Scholarship Brunch.
Those opportunities include serving as his PharmD class’s co-president, helping to coordinate class events and advocate for his classmates, which he says has been extremely rewarding.
“These scholarship recipients are worth every penny. They are the future of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences — that future is in very good hands, indeed.”
“Without the scholarship, I would not have had the time to support my classmates as we move through our third year of school,” says Baltes. “It’s important to know that the impact of scholarships can be felt well beyond just those who receive them.”
The financial support has also given Baltes the time to pursue shadowing opportunities, which have piqued a new interest: cardiology.
“I shadowed in a cardiac rehab class this semester, where I had the opportunity to speak with cardiac patients as they’re recovering,” he says. “It’s been truly rewarding to talk with patients and help them understand their new medications and what kinds of effects to expect with these medications.”
‘Worth every penny’
Former School of Pharmacy Dean Jeanette Roberts is one of the donors who make this type of student support possible. When she first joined the School as dean in 2003, there were 45 donor-supported scholarship funds supporting students in the PharmD and Pharmacology and Toxicology bachelor’s degree programs, with a market value of around $4 million. By 2023, that’s grown to donor-supported scholarship funds, with some supporting multiple students, totaling $21 million.
“Over the past 20 years — 11 years under my leadership and, so far, nine years under Dean Steve Swanson’s — the School remains dedicated to raising money to support our outstanding students, and that shows no sign of stopping,” she says. “These scholarship recipients are worth every penny. They are the future of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences — that future is in very good hands, indeed.”
Roberts was inspired to become a donor by her own experience as an undergraduate student at Albright College in Reading, Penn.
“I was fortunate enough to receive a full-ride scholarship for all four years,” says Roberts, who also spoke at the Scholarship Brunch. “I came from a family of very modest means, to put it mildly. I could not have attended Albright without it. That really solidified my belief in scholarship support for students and the philanthropy behind it.”
One of the newest initiatives at the School of Pharmacy to support students financially is the Pharmacy Forward campaign, geared toward raising funds for admissions scholarships to make it easier for high-quality future pharmacists to attend the School regardless of their background.
“Scholarships that our alumni and donors provide play an indispensable role in supporting Madison’s pharmacy students obtaining their dream careers,” says Baltes. “Scholarships are not just monetary aid; they are the catalysts of dreams and ambitions.”