Although the Mercer University College of Pharmacy was founded more than 100 years ago, the program has continued to evolve to offer pharmacy students relevant training in their ever-changing profession.
“The administration and faculty are responsive to changes in the educational needs and practice responsibilities of pharmacists, which are reflected in the pharmacy curriculum and program,” said Dean Hewitt W. “Ted” Matthews, PhD.
To better prepare students for their careers, the school developed a new curriculum in 2012 that is based on a 90-credit hour pre-professional requirement and focuses on patient-centered activities (PCAs), service learning, and leadership. In the same year, the university created the Health Sciences Center, comprised of the colleges of pharmacy, nursing, medicine, and health professions. The program aims to create opportunities for interprofessional education.
“With the new curriculum, the college has expanded formal professional development portfolio assessments beyond experiential education to now also include expectations and reflections of learning within the didactic curriculum,” Matthews said.
The new curriculum also allows students to earn certificates of achievement in specific areas of pharmacy practice. Certificates in community pharmacy ownership, diabetes care, contemporary compounding, leadership in pharmacy management, academic pharmacy, geriatric pharmacy practice, and medication therapy management are available. All PharmD candidates also complete the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery training program.
In addition to the traditional PharmD program, the school also offers PhD programs and dual degrees through which students can earn a PharmD along with an MBA or PhD.
Mercer’s College of Pharmacy implemented clinical skills and simulation laboratories in the first- and second-year curricula.
Mercer pharmacy students participate in interprofessional education with students in Mercer’s three other health sciences colleges: Medicine, Nursing, and Health Professions.
Q: What is the teaching style or philosophy?
The College of Pharmacy faculty uses a variety of teaching and learning methods to achieve the outcomes of the curriculum. The faculty is committed to utilizing active learning in at least 25% of scheduled class time. We use a variety of strategies to advance meaningful learning, such as small group case discussions, problem-based learning, and team-based learning, as well as simulated practice experiences.
The faculty places particular emphasis on the incorporation of PCAs and the creation of student-centered learning environments in each course. In the new curriculum, PCAs are included in all courses, even those with a non-therapeutic focus, allowing students to directly relate the learned content knowledge to organ systems, disease states, and patient care.
PCAs develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and foster the ability to apply learned knowledge to the practice of pharmacy. The PCAs vary in form, delivery, and complexity, ranging from more basic science-based disease state case studies to multifaceted and complex, patient-based cases.
With the assistance of the college’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, the faculty addresses students’ diverse learning needs and different learning styles by varying the manner of delivery, application, and assessment of content.
Q: What opportunities do students have for internships or co-ops?
The college’s location in metropolitan Atlanta means students are surrounded by a variety of organizations with internship opportunities that they can pursue as student pharmacists.
Our students have obtained valuable internships with pharmaceutical industry, government, professional organizations, retail, hospital, managed care, and other practice settings. The college’s Professional Development Network (PDN) helps students explore and shape their careers and plan for internships with assistance from fellow PDN members.
Annual Career/Interview Day and Residency Showcase events, as well as organization meetings and activities, provide opportunities for students to interact with pharmacists in varied areas of pharmacy practice.
Q: What advice do you have for students who will graduate this year?
Pharmacists fill a vital role in our health care system, and this role will continue to expand. New pharmacy graduates should expect to work in both traditional and nontraditional practice settings, and on traditional and nontraditional schedules.
The solid education Mercer students have received has provided them with the tools they need to develop professionally so that they can continue to be effective and advocate for the profession. By placing an emphasis on professionalism, leadership, and advocacy, we expect that our graduates will have a sense of duty to give back to the profession once they are established in their careers as pharmacists.