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Group questions growth of pharmacy schools

December 29, 2010

Talk about raining on the parade: Two weeks before Manchester College announced a $35 million gift to help open a pharmacy school, a national trade group suggested there are too many pharmacy schools already.

The American Pharmacists Association issued a white paper that noted there are now 115 schools of pharmacy around the country, another 20 on the drawing board, and many existing schools that have expanded their capacity in the last decade. The professional group says the quality of school faculty and student bodies could be threatened as a result.

“The profession is currently growing new schools and producing graduates at a rate that is significantly outpacing [federal] assumptions and it is logical to conclude that, should this trend continue, it will create a supply that outpaces demand,” according to the white paper, issued Dec. 6.

But the national story may not reflect the situation in Indiana, one of 18 states that has a shortage of pharmacists, according to November data from the Aggregate Demand Index for Pharmacists.

And the Indiana Department of Workforce Development says there are about 250 open positions in Indiana for pharmacists, which the agency ranks No. 44 on its list of the Hot 50 jobs in Indiana because demand is currently outstripping supply.

It was that shortage that Manchester declared it was attacking when it announced in October 2009 that it would launch the state’s third school of pharmacy offering doctoral degrees.

Manchester, a small liberal arts college west of Fort Wayne, will open its pharmacy campus there in 2012.

The first class will include 70 students, with enrollment ramping to 265 by 2015.

Manchester hired a dean for the school in May, Philip J. Medon. He is now trying to recruit faculty to the school, in such areas as pharmacy practice, pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacy administration and biomedical science.

And that’s where the American Pharmacists Association has questions, in light of the burgeoning growth of pharmacy schools.

“This rapid expansion raises questions about these schools’ (new and old) ability to recruit and retain sufficiently prepared faculty and staff,” reads the association’s white paper. “The expansion in capacity also places major pressures on schools to maintain high standards while filling classes with top-notch students.”

But Manchester officials like their chances, especially after the $35 million infusion from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.

“This grant enhances our tools to attract exceptional faculty in a highly competitive market,” said Manchester President Jo Young Switzer, in a statement.

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