ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy offers flexible admissions pathways for students

Published 11:14 am Friday, January 12, 2024

Mackenzie Ludolph, a student at East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, discovered her passion for pharmacy during a pharmacy tech certification course her senior year at Science Hill High School.
Up until then, her understanding of pharmacists was limited mostly to someone wearing a white coat in the retail pharmacy setting – something many outside of the field could likely relate to. Ludolph, however, would soon learn that the opportunities in pharmacy are numerous, with more than 100 career pathways across a variety of specialties.
“I just want to help people really understand what’s going on in their body and how medication affects that,” said Ludolph, who said she also hopes to impact the opioid crisis through volunteer work and helping those affected by substance misuse.
Ludolph, like many others who pursue a career in pharmacy, was driven by a desire to help those in her community. And on National Pharmacist Day, recognized annually on Jan. 12, there’s no better time to recognize and appreciate the dedication of pharmacists and student pharmacists who are making an impact in their community.
To help future pharmacists learn more about the profession, ETSU Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy is offering a free Pharmacy Career Exploration Day with lunch on Saturday, February 24, 2024, to help students like Ludolph learn more about pharmacy careers, as well as the flexible pathways to pursue pharmacy at ETSU. Learn more and register at
To get started on her pharmacy career early, Ludolph pursued one of those flexible pathways as a first-year student at ETSU when she applied — and was accepted — into the Early Admission Pathway at ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy.
After her acceptance, she soon became involved in ETSU’s pre-pharmacy activities. She joined the Pre-Pharmacy Student Organization and began serving in a leadership position as its vice president. In the club, she could learn more about the profession and met other like-minded students and heard from a variety of ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy faculty and student pharmacists about their experience.
Dr. Jim Thigpen, associate professor of Pharmacy Practice at ETSU, is a pediatric pharmacist at Niswonger Children’s Hospital and also serves as the Pre-Pharmacy Student Organization sponsor. Ludolph shadowed Thigpen and learned that she had a real passion for pediatric and intensive care unit (ICU) pharmacy.
“I love the fast pace and the pressure,” said Ludolph. “You’re constantly seeing different kinds of people, and you never know what you’re going to get.”
For Kaylee Wilhoit (’25), ETSU’s Early Admission Pathway was appealing because it provided an opportunity to pursue her pharmacy career path as a senior in high school and gave her a guaranteed spot in the PharmD program.
“Graduating with my PharmD more quickly will give me additional time to practice as a pharmacist, provide care for more patients and learn more about the evolving field of medicine,” said Wilhoit.
The college implemented the Early Admission Pathway several years ago to provide a direct route to pharmacy school for students like Ludolph and Wilhoit. It allows high school students interested in pharmacy to apply as high school students for admission to ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy. The Early Admission Pathway is also open to first-year students at ETSU.
In addition to the Early Admission Pathway, the college offers the traditional route to pharmacy school in which undergraduates may apply a year in advance of their desired starting date.
The college also offers a 3+1 program in which students majoring in biological sciences, chemistry or health sciences may spend three years working toward their undergraduate degrees and transfer into ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy, completing their undergraduate degrees while beginning work toward the PharmD. The college offers other flexible pathways to admissions for traditional and nontraditional students and will work with students to help determine the best fit.
The deadline to apply for the college’s Early Admission Pathway is March 31, 2024. Visit to learn more and apply. In addition, admission for the college’s Class of 2028 is open. Learn more about these pathways at or contact or (423) 439-6300.