Morgan Walsh is a D1 runner, all while maintaining her grades in the rigorous pharmacy program. Photo by Delaney Hudson.
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Wake up at 4:30 a.m.. Lift with teammates from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., then straight to a full day of pharmacy classes. Next, afternoon football practice and prep for the upcoming game. Lastly, study for yet another grueling pharmacy exam before getting to bed at 11 p.m., and get ready to wake up at 4:30 the next morning — and start the process all over again.
For Dr. Griffin Blunk, ’22 pharmacy and MBA alum and current second-year pharmacy resident, this was his daily schedule during the football season his senior year. As both a walk-on player for the football team, a former cheerleader and a pharmacy student, balance was the name of the game.
Pharmacy school is infamously rigorous, and the pharmacy program is something Butler is known for. Students typically take six years to complete the school’s Doctor of Pharmacy program: two years of the pre-professional pre-pharmacy phase to complete prerequisites, plus four years of the professional pharmacy phase. Particularly during the professional phase, pharmacy majors experience an endless hamster wheel of back-to-back classes and exams; in those years, it is not uncommon to have two or three exams in the same week.
Even still, the D1 athletes in the pharmacy program manage to make it work — but not without their fair share of discipline, sacrifice and plain old grit.
According to Sonya Hopkins, associate athletics director for academics, there are currently 13 student athletes who are pre-pharmacy or pharmacy majors.
Sophie Resner is a sophomore PP2 pre-pharmacy major on the women’s swim team. Photo by Delaney Hudson.
Sophie Resner is one of them. She is a sophomore in her PP2 year, or the second year of the pre-pharmacy phase. Resner has been a competitive swimmer since 8 years old, yet she found her first year on Butler’s swim team to be “absolutely crazy.”
While many of Resner’s teammates are in similar majors and tracks such as biochemistry and pre-medicine, she — along with the two other pre-pharmacy majors on her team — did not have many others who truly understood what she experienced figuring out how to balance academics and athletics.
“I don’t think anything really prepares you for anything your freshman year, especially being a student athlete,” Resner said. “But being a pre-pharm major, too, was next level craziness … I kind of thought I was pretty good at time management my whole life since I had been swimming my whole life, but it felt like when I got here, I knew nothing about time management.”
Now, settling into her sophomore year, Resner feels she has a much better handle on how to get everything done, even as the Title IX representative for the women’s swim team, a member of both social and pharmacy Greek life and a part of in-development swimming nonprofit Splash. And these responsibilities are all on top of swimming and school. She has learned how to use her planner, stress-inducing and stuffed to the brim that it is, and how she best studies … and when to take a much-needed break.
Fifth-year Morgan Walsh is a P3, or in the third year of the professional phase. She runs cross country in the fall and track & field in the winter and spring, plus works multiple part-time jobs, and is a member of a pharmacy fraternity, all while maintaining high enough academics to be invited into the Rho Chi pharmacy honor society. While pharmacy majors typically lose eligibility for their sport by P3 unless they redshirt a year, she is by default a redshirt senior, having gained an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on college athletics.
Just like Resner, Walsh relies on her planner, inputting everything she can into Google Calendar at the beginning of the semester. She considers time management one of her strong suits, but she inevitably has to miss Friday class about every other week for away meets.
All lectures in the pharmacy program are fortunately recorded, so if she is traveling, Walsh ensures to make those up. However, it was especially difficult during her P2 year, which is generally regarded as the most grueling year of the pharmacy program. Historically, the entire P2 class has therapeutics case studies every Friday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.. During class, students assess and create a treatment plan for a hypothetical treatment as a small group, under the guidance of pharmacy faculty and residents.
For Walsh, she missed out on that group learning component whenever she had to skip case studies for an away meet.
“I did have to do a lot of cases on my own, but luckily, my case members shared their [in-class] document so I could do mine and then check my answers,” Walsh said. “But I didn’t get as much as that interactive learning in case.”
But for these student athletes, depending on the specific sport and athlete, it is not only class work that has to be made up; sometimes, they have to make up exams, too.
Griffin Blunk, right, and Mason Brunner, left, holding the Hoosier Helmet in 2019 after beating Valparaiso. Both played for Butler football while attending pharmacy school. Photo courtesy of Griffin Blunk.
As a walk-on player for the football team, Blunk usually did not travel for games. However, two of his best friends Mason Brunner and Joe Camacho were also ’22 pharmacy majors, and they were starters for the football team.
“There was a week where [Brunner and Camacho] actually missed one of our exams,” Blunk said. “So they actually had to come in on Sunday and meet up with our professor, and they took their exam on Sunday.”
With such regimented schedules, pharmacy athletes inevitably have to make sacrifices to make both aspects of their lives work.
When Walsh’s teammates are watching Netflix in the hotel at an away meet, she is studying and doing homework in the lobby. When her pharmacy study group is studying late into the night and hanging out afterward, she has to say no because she knows she has an early morning.
As a result, it can feel socially isolating at times.
“Sometimes, I feel like I am not as connected to my classmates as I wish I could be because I’m either gone, missing classes or can’t go to [class bonding social] events,” Walsh said.
Fortunately, there is community to be found. Resner similarly found it difficult to become integrated into the pharmacy ecosystem at Butler, but joining her pharmacy fraternity has helped her connect with other pharmacy students. For Blunk, he and the five other athletes in his graduating class formed a community, studying together and supporting each other when somebody else’s sport was in season.
Butler Athletics and the pharmacy program themselves also support these athletes.
“For me, and everyone in athletics will say this, including our coaches: we’re a student before we’re an athlete,” Resner said.
As long as there is communication, coaches understand if someone has to miss or arrive late to practice because of class, and they are willing to coordinate practice or workout days. Especially during the professional phase when there is little-to-no flexibility in class scheduling, they know that class still takes priority over practice.
And again, as long as there is communication, professors are willing to work with student athletes and make accommodations as needed.
“[The track and cross country teams have] a pretty good reputation [that] we’re good students,” Walsh said. “Even if we miss [class], we’ll get [our work] done. So I think the professors are really receptive to, especially, track, cross country and other athletes, too. They respect us and know we have a lot going on.”
Even through it all — through the grind and the sacrifice — being able to be both a student athlete and ultimately become a pharmacist is incredibly rewarding.
In fact, being a student athlete can actually be a benefit for a career in pharmacy.
Blunk said his time management abilities shone when applying for post-graduate residencies.
“When I was going through residency interviews, they ask you about your strengths,” Blunk said. “One of my biggest strengths I said was time management … Being able to manage your time effectively is a huge skill that [residency programs are] looking for, and so that was one that I could confidently say that I had — and truly was a strength for me.”
When she was a first year, Resner was discouraged from doing pharmacy because of the workload in addition to being a swimmer.
“I was definitely told by advisors and professors a lot last year that maybe pharmacy was not the best choice for me,” Resner said. “And while I appreciated the concern and everything, I want to do it, and until I truly decide that it’s something I don’t want to do, I’m going to continue to do it.”
But if it is really, truly what a student wants: it is possible.
“Some people, you know, they’re going into a rigorous education like pharmacy school, and they think that ‘oh, I’m not gonna be able to play a sport that I want,’ and that definitely is doable,” Blunk said. “You just really have to communicate, time manage and work out your schedule to be able to make it possible.”
No person’s identity has to be defined by only one thing, particularly at a small school like Butler where people — knowing the students on a more personal basis — are more willing to make accommodations. As a pharmacy student, an athlete and anything else, it is possible to make the autonomous choice to be that full, multifaceted individual.
“I go to class, and I’m a pharmacy student, and I’m here learning about pharmacy stuff,” Resner said. “And then I go to Hinkle, and I’m this athlete surrounded by other athletes. And then I go home, and I’m a sorority girl. And it’s just so weird to me that there are three different things in my life that are so predominant that somehow coincide with each other … All three of those things are in my life.”