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Future Shock

Proper use, public health, and professional responsibilty at pharmacy colleges

University Business, June 2013

At the height of allergy season, Forbes projected a $14.7 billion profit margin for over-the-counter allergy medications alone. Over the past year, the American public got a rare look into the alleged unethical and deceitful business, hygiene, medical, and pharmacy practices at the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts. In an interview on CBS’s 60-Minutes, one former lab tech reported that, “The company got greedy, over extended, and we got sloppy.” NECC has since been allegedly linked by authorities to numerous deaths and hundreds of reported cases of fungal meningitis. In the past, compounding centers have been subject to state regulators’ oversight. Now, in the midst of this nation-wide tragedy, the FDA is lobbying for broader regulatory and enforcement authority.

With an increasing percentage of baby boomers living longer, the pharmaceutical industry is sending a clear message to schools and colleges of pharmacy – a ringing call to raise the bar of pharmacy admissions curriculum, faculty credentials, and students who show academic and professional integrity.

Across the nation, pharmacy education thought leaders are now partnering with pharmaceutical industry executives to create a professional workforce development pipeline of pharmacists, educators, and researchers. This pipeline is a key driver for improving patient care, educating allied health professions, and raising community health awareness and wellness.

Recognized as a premier institution among peers, USC has received significant funding from the National Institute of Health. Beyond external funding, USC hosts the Pharmacy Explorers program – an Early College Pathway in partnership with inner-city high schools. This partnership better informs elementary and middle school students of career options in molecular pharmacology, toxicology, pharmaceutical science, gerontology, and global medicine. With a significant number of international students, the USC School of Pharmacy is now actively engaged in forming scientific research partnerships around the world.

Steeped in a special mission of social justice, Roosevelt University in Chicago and Schaumberg, Illinois now hosts a new pharmacy college. George MacKinnon, founding Dean of the College of Pharmacy, explained the critical role pharmacists play in addressing today’s rapidly changing healthcare market conditions – by putting it this way, “As a pharmacist, I believe that the pharmacy degree is the ‘engineering’ degree of the health sciences. It is the competent pharmacist in community pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities who actually help patients and other health care providers improve health outcomes with medications, monitoring, and counseling.”

RU’s academic program design was deliberately built on the hallmarks of small class sizes, a fully integrated curriculum, optimized use of labs, real time experiential simulations, and a dedicated emphasis on collaborative learning. Connecting 21st century pharmacy skills across the curriculum, the College deliberately deploys two interactive learning centers - with students sitting in “pods” as opposed to linear stadium seating of the last century. We noticed that a number of RU Pharmacy students have been recruited from rural areas in the Midwest - the intention is that RU graduates will return to hometowns in order to serve the public health needs of their own community.

At the University of Minnesota students and teachers are “driven to discover” with a post-graduation job placement rate of 96% to prove it. University of Minnesota students are specially educated and trained to identify, resolve, and prepare pharmacy-based solutions without placing the patient at risk. Importantly, we learned that the roots of the university’s pharmacy program are best explained this way, “Our success in areas impacting the daily lives of so many people shows the dedication of the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center to translate learning into action.”

During its venerable 125-year history, Ohio Northern University’s Raabe College of Pharmacy educated thousands of professionally licensed pharmacists. What sets ONU apart is the infusion of the practice of pharmacy with a strong liberal arts curriculum, a community as family philosophy, and its steadfast patient oriented teaching practices. As incoming freshman, students are directly admitted into a six year program.

As investigation, litigation, and publicity ramp up on the alleged malpractice at NECC, we turn to our leading Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy to prevent a reoccurrence of this devastating tragedy – placing the public health and ethical conduct at the center of 21st century pharmacy best educational practices and professional responsibility.