Pharmacy schools become the new growth industry

Seven new pharmacy schools are being planned to help meet the pharmacist shortage.



Pharmacy schools become the new growth industry

The much publicized pharmacist shortage has spurred plans for up to seven—count 'em, seven—new pharmacy schools around the country, and that building boom has some established institutions a little nervous about their own manpower shortfall.

Four of the seven proposed new pharmacy schools are seeking accreditation from the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education, according to executive director Peter Vlasses, Pharm.D. Applications and presentations were made to ACPE by the Nevada College of Pharmacy, which opened its doors in January; the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy; Palm Beach Atlantic School of Pharmacy; and the University of California San Diego College of Pharmacy. On-site evaluations will be conducted by ACPE as the basis for consideration of precandidate accreditation status.

There are plans on the drawing board for three additional pharmacy schools, but no applications or presentations have been made to ACPE. Funding problems have reportedly slowed plans at the University of New England College of Pharmacy in Biddeford, Maine; University of Oklahoma Schusterman Health Sciences Center Campus in Tulsa; and University of Nevada in Reno and Las Vegas.


Planned pharmacy schools

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy*

Erie, Pa.
Entering class: Fall 2002
Initial class: 78 students
Three-year accelerated professional program

Nevada College of Pharmacy*

Henderson, Nev.
Entering class: January 2001
Initial class: 40 students
Three-year professional program

Palm Beach Atlantic School of Pharmacy*

West Palm Beach, Fla.
Entering class: Fall 2001
Initial class: 45 students
Four-year professional program


University of California San Diego Collegeof Pharmacy*

La Jolla, Calif.

Entering class: September 2002
Initial class: 25 students
Four-year professional program

University of Nevada

Reno and Las Vegas campuses
Entering class: September 2003
Initial class: 40 students
Four-year professional program

University of New England College of Pharmacy

Biddeford, Maine
Entering class: Fall 2001

University of Oklahoma

Schusterman Health Sciences Center Campus
Tulsa, Okla.
Entering class: Fall 2001
Three-year accelerated professional program

*Accreditation application under ACPE review


The prospect of so many new pharmacy schools coming on line is keeping administrators of established institutions up nights. They're worried about increased competition for another scarce pharmacy resource, namely faculty members and deans, said Richard Penna, executive v.p. of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

"We're obviously in a growth industry with the demand for pharmacists, but the current trend started long before the shortage," said Penna. "We've opened nine schools of pharmacy in the past 10 years. There's no question we need the pharmacists and that the need will continue well into the future. But you don't have expansion without problems. The supply of faculty is limited, and right now the number of students applying to pharmacy schools is down. Not only is supply of faculty limited, but the leadership required to run these schools is also in rather short supply."

When an individual school opens, it may not have trouble recruiting faculty, but its success may be at the expense of another school. In addition, the new schools generally are not geared to Ph.D. programs, which traditionally turn out new faculty. "Faculty has to come from somewhere, and you just don't pull them out of the air—especially the professionally related faculty, such as pharmacy practice and pharmaceutics," Penna said. "That's what opening new schools does to us. In addition to the new schools, existing schools are looking to expand their programs. It's a challenge we have in pharmaceutical education right now."

Following the example of other osteopathic medical schools, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine opted to add a pharmacy program. Despite competition from five other Pennsylvania schools, officials believe their Erie campus will pull applicants from nearby Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, said Donald Tuttle, Pharm.D., associate dean of the new pharmacy school, which is slated to open in the fall of 2002. The initial class of 78 students enrolled in the accelerated three-year Pharm.D. program is expected to grow to about 100 students.

"The medical college wanted to expand with another professional health care-related program," said Tuttle, who is also pharmacy manager at Mill Creek Community Hospital. "Areas such as dental school were ruled out as too costly. But given the demand for pharmacists, pharmacy school seemed to be the program most suited at this time. It's fair to say we have concerns about faculty. Certainly the pharmacist shortage is not helping, especially for some of the experiential faculty. It's a challenge, but we're hoping the affiliation with a medical school will offer an incentive."

The current crop of schools comes on the heels of nine schools that opened during the past 10 years. The most recent newcomers include Midwestern University College of Pharmacy Glendale Campus in Arizona, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy Worcester Campus, Pennsylvania's Wilkes University School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University School of Pharmacy Amarillo, and Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy.

One good piece of news for pharmacy schools, old or new, is that AACP's Penna sees the applicant pool beginning to fill again after several years of waning interest. "When the economy begins to soften, applications to health programs go up, so I think the applicant pool will turn around," he said. "In addition, schools and colleges have put a lot of time and effort into old-fashioned recruiting, and it's showing results."

Carol Ukens


Carol Ukens. Pharmacy schools become the new growth industry.

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