Mary Andritz, dean of Butler University's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, bursts into laughter when asked how long her department's been short on space.
"I've only been here for two years, but I think it's been for some considerable amount of time," she guessed. "Probably for 10 years."
Lilly Endowment Inc., however, is filling the prescription in the form of a grant to fund a 40,000-square-foot addition under construction and scheduled to open by the fall 2009 semester.
The $14 million, four-story building is included in a $25 million gift the endowment gave to Butler and will double current space at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Connected to the existing structure built in 1951, the new addition will include larger classrooms, two laboratories and project rooms for future pharmacists, who are in great demand.
Both Butler and Purdue University, which hosts the state's only other pharmacy program, say their pharmacy students typically receive two to three solid job offers each after graduation.
"It's more an issue of where they want to locate," said Craig Svensson, dean of Purdue's College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences, "because they have so many choices."
A consortium of pharmacy groups called the Pharmacy Manpower Project issued a report in 2002 that experts still cite because of its thoroughness. It predicted 157,000 unfilled pharmacy openings by 2020.
Several factors are fueling the shortage, including changes in insurance policies and federal regulation of pharmaceuticals, making drugs available to more people. An aging population and the increasing practice of drugmakers advertising directly to the public has helped cause the number of prescriptions to rise from 2 billion to 3.2 billion annually in the last decade.
Space still tight
For 160 openings in its pharmacy school, Purdue received 1,100 applications last year. The university is hamstrung by limited space and a shortage of faculty, Svensson said. Unlike Butler, Purdue has no building projects in the works.
Butler, conversely, can accommodate pre-pharmacy students but cannot take many transfers who already have earned bachelor's degrees and are pursuing pharmacy careers. In the 2006-2007 school year, the college received 697 transfer applications for a handful of openings. With the new building addition, the college should be able to bump that number to 30 transfer students annually, Andritz said.
"It's discouraging for someone who wants to come to Butler," she said, "and you find out there's only five spaces."
Nearly 500 of Butler's 4,200 students are enrolled in its six-year pharmacy program, which requires two years of prepharmacy coursework and four years in the professional phase.
Pharmacy students must complete 10 one-month clinical rotations over a 12-month period during the last year of the program. The remaining $11 million of the $25 million endowment grant will fund public health and research initiatives in which those students are involved.
In areas of Indiana with fewer health care providers, for instance, the college is researching whether pharmacies provide a wider range of services than one would in a more populated area. In their final year of study, students are required to visit at least one underserved area.
"It's particularly important for them to understand what challenges [those] patients experience," Andritz said.
About 55 percent of Butler pharmacy graduates work in retail or community pharmacies and 25 percent at hospitals. Seventeen percent extend their education by accepting residencies, and 3 percent choose research or consulting positions, according to the university.
Starting pay is good. Beginning pharmacists earn on average about $105,000 a year.
Larger halls, more lab space
The new addition will feature two lecture halls that can seat 135 students each, freeing professors from teaching the same classes twice as they do now in smaller rooms, Andritz said.
It also will include a research laboratory for the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department that should enable the college to grow that program from four to seven faculty members.
Another labaroatory supporting Butler's Physician Assistant Program is particularly important given PA students and professors currently must travel off campus to Methodist Hospital for laboratory exercises.
For the PA program, the on-site facilities come at a time when the profession is growing in stature. Indiana's physician assistants received authority from the state Legislature last year to prescribe medicine to patients. July 1 officially marked the milestone of Indiana becoming the last state in the nation to grant prescribing powers to physician assistants.
Physician assistants typically receive more than two years of training. Many schools require incoming students to have a bachelor's degree, although Butler will admit students with as little as two years of completed coursework.
The university, which accepts about 50 PA students a year, made the transition from a two-year to a three-year program and graduated its first class under the master's format in the spring.
The only other school in the state offering a PA program is the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Seeking LEED certification
The addition is the first on the Butler campus built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. The university is aspiring to achieve silverlevel certification, the second of four certification levels.
A few of its "green" components include a bicycle storage area and changing rooms and showers for those who ride their bikes to work. A small portion of the building's parking lot will be reserved for hybrid vehicles.
Local materials, in this case limestone from southern Indiana, will be used to construct the facade. Materials shipped within 500 miles of a job site are considered more environmentally friendly because less oil is used and fewer emissions released while transporting the products.
Waterless urinals in the men's room, water-saving plumbing fixtures and the lack of an outside irrigation system will help conserve water.
"Regardless of whether you believe in global warming, I can make a good business argument to build a LEED-certified building," said Mike Gardner, Butler's vice president for operations.
The addition to the pharmacy building is one of several new structures to sprout on the Butler campus in recent years.
Those facilities include the Fairbanks Center, an addition to the Lilly Hall for Fine Arts, the Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall, Apartment Village, and the health and counseling center.