North Texas to get its first PharmD program

November 18, 2008
Alaina Scott, Senior Editor

The University of Dallas (UD) this month announced plans to open North Texas' first PharmD degree program.

The University of Dallas (UD) this month announced plans to open North Texas' first PharmD degree program. The Dallas-Fort Worth area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States, is the largest market in the country without an academic pharmacy program.

UD plans to seek pre-candidate status for its pharmacy school from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and expects to enroll its first class in 2011, following appropriate approvals from ACPE as well as other accreditation and regulatory bodies.

UD has named health sciences administrator and educator Dr. George E. MacKinnon III founding dean and professor of the pharmacy school. He previously held leadership roles in the establishment and accreditation of two new schools of pharmacy in Chicago and Phoenix, as well as conducted feasibility studies for schools of pharmacy at other universities.

MacKinnon has also delivered more than 200 presentations, written more than 60 publications, and authored three book chapters in the pharmacy and the health sciences arenas. “MacKinnon brings to this important position decades of invaluable clinical, academic, and administrative experience in the health sciences,” Dr. Francis M. Lazarus, president of the University of Dallas, said. “His leadership will prove instrumental in building the school of pharmacy and ultimately positioning it as one of the most innovative schools of pharmacy in the country.” Before his appointment at UD, MacKinnon was the vice president of academic affairs at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

Over the past 18 years, MacKinnon held joint academic appointments in medicine and pharmacy at several schools, engaging in clinical practice, research, teaching, and academic administration. He has also worked in the pharmaceutical industry as director of global health economics and outcomes research at Abbott Laboratories. A six-month feasibility study led by outside consultants helped to determine both the need for a college of pharmacy in the region and UD's unique qualifications.

As both Texas and the United States are facing a critical shortage in the number of licensed pharmacists to fill existing positions, the university will help fill the shortage. Texas currently ranks 42nd out of 50 states in meeting the demand for new pharmacists, yet is the second most populated state. There are 95,000 applicants for only 10,000 first-year enrollment spots at pharmacy schools. The Texas Workforce Commission estimates the state needs 855 new pharmacists annually, yet Texas' six pharmacy schools combined only produce 650 graduates each year. Historically, Texas has had to attract pharmacists from other states to fill vacant pharmacist positions.

"I look forward to addressing the missing piece of the robust healthcare infrastructure in North Texas, in partnership with regional healthcare practitioners, institutions, and communities, and creating a patient-centered curriculum for our students," MacKinnon said. "This is a tremendous opportunity to build on UD's national prominence and reputation with respect to student-centered education and the development of inquisitive, caring, and critical thinkers among its graduates."

The growing demand for licensed pharmacists has been driven by a number of factors, including the nation's rapidly aging population, the increased role of pharmaceuticals as the leading course of medical intervention, and the expansion of pharmacy services in retail outlets and hospital settings nationwide.

In addition, licensed pharmacists are increasingly taking positions in settings, such as long-term care facilities, hospice care, prescription benefit management companies, clinical research, pharmaceutical companies, policy and regulatory affairs, governmental agencies, and mail-order distribution companies.