What do the new business-oriented pharmacy degree options mean for the future of pharmacy?
The fact that there is a leadership vacuum in pharmacy has been recognized by many state and national pharmacy organizations. However, the reasons for this may not be as clearly understood— nor are the solutions universally accepted. Evidence for the lack of agreement is illustrated by a conversation I had recently with a colleague.
Is leadership best learned through experience or are training programs the building blocks to leadership development? Similar to the “nature vs nurture” debate, our discussion focused on whether you teach leadership skills in school or you encourage involvement in experiences that lead to the development of those leadership skills, especially through experiencing failure. We agreed to disagree on which side was the more important, but we did agree that aspects of both can contribute to leadership skill development in an individual.
What got us into the discussion was the recent news that the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where we both work, announced a new PharmD/MBA joint degree. While many schools of pharmacy offer this dual-degree option, I don’t know if they follow what actually happens to these dual-degree students once they graduate.
Do their careers differ from those of students who obtain the PharmD degree? Or those who might get an MBA later? One can speculate that an MBA might allow business-oriented pharmacy graduates to be more successful entrepreneurs or move up the corporate ladder faster. But, until an actual evaluation is done we will be arguing whether training or experience better prepares leaders.
What a dual-degree program might do is prepare a different kind of pharmacist who could pursue jobs in entirely new arenas. I was reading an interview with the dean of a new college of pharmacy, the Medco School of Pharmacy at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey (Am J Health-System Pharm, Vol 68, p 1072, June 15, 2011n). The dean said they are planning on offering a PharmD in combination with a master’s degree in health sciences with a concentration in regulatory affairs, clinical research methods, or health informatics in addition to the standard PharmD. Dean Nemire said she hopes to develop a master’s program in pharmacogenetics in the near future. She also said they plan to offer dualdegree programs in pharmaceutical science, business administration, and public administration.
These different combinations of degrees are not entirely new in pharmacy education. Do they represent more than a marketing tool to recruit students? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself.
One employer of pharmacists, Russell Teagarden, vice president for scientific affairs for Medco Health Solutions, stated in that same article, “There are so many different sources of input on how drugs are used where drug therapeutic expertise is needed. And this is why the opportunity range for pharmacy school graduates is exploding.” He went on to say, “We have a shortage of pharmacists when you consider all these other areas that need therapeutic expertise along with additional skills that can put them into these areas.”
If pharmacy graduates from these dualdegree programs have different skill sets that prepare them to function effectively in new job arenas, it would be beneficial for our profession. It would better establish that the education pharmacists receive is excellent.
More importantly, it would create new job opportunities for pharmacy graduates. One should also ask if the PharmD program itself will be improved in those schools that have dual-degree options.
It will be interesting to watch what happens to the graduates of these dualdegree programs in the future. If any of these benefits occur, it will be a win-win for society and pharmacy. My hope is that these dual-degree options prove to be highly successful. PT