A 2014 article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education called for the development of academic pharmacy practice fellowships to address the challenge of evolving pharmacist roles.
A 2014 article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education called for the development of academic pharmacy practice fellowships to address the challenge of evolving pharmacist roles.1 According to Poirier and Ferguson, academic fellowship “would be a way for graduates to expand their patient care roles outside of the traditional health care system, serve the needs of the academy by becoming qualified pharmacy practice faculty members with teaching and research skills, and develop advanced patient care roles in community practice and nontraditional healthcare systems.”1 A separate 2012 article in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy describes how the traditional residency structure for training pharmacists for practice does not adequately prepare residency graduates to assume faculty roles in teaching and scholarship.2
In an effort to address the need for a program to train PharmD graduates with the skills necessary to excel in pharmacy education, faculty at the Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences developed its 2-year Academic Fellowship Program.3 The goal is to prepare the fellow for a career in academia through a mentored experience in pharmacy education and scholarship. The program differs from traditional pharmacy residency ones because it focuses on learning skills necessary to excel in academia rather than hospital or community pharmacy practice. Although many traditional pharmacy residency programs provide trainees the opportunity to participate in a teaching certificate program, the certificate requirements are often minimal and may involve a few teaching experiences with either a partner university or through the provision of continuing professional development. Even with teaching certificate programs in place, the need to enhance the teaching and scholarship skills of future faculty members exists. In an academic fellowship, participants spend most of their time learning how to be an effective educator.
In addition to providing teaching experience, an academic fellowship prepares the fellow for a career in academia by providing research mentorship. Like a traditional residency, academic fellowship requires the fellow to engage in an individual research project and encourages dissemination of research at local, regional, and national meetings, as well as through manuscript publication. However, unlike traditional residency projects, which are often practice focused, the research pursued in an academic fellowship may also include scholarship of teaching and learning. At WSU, the primary research mentor for the fellows is also the director of the Center for Pharmacy Practice Research, allowing the fellows to gain experience in both the scholarship of teaching and learning and pharmacy practice research, areas that are often integral to a successful career in academia.4
Several other postgraduate academic fellowships are also offered in the United States. The University of Cincinnati James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy in Ohio offers a combined pharmacy practice and academic program that includes 3.5 days at the college of pharmacy and 1.5 days at a clinical practice site.5 Touro College of Pharmacy in California also offers a 12-month academic fellowship that includes teaching opportunities in a variety of educational settings.6 Pacific University School of Pharmacy partners with the Oregon Board of Pharmacy to offer an academic and regulatory fellowship designed to transition the fellow from a general practitioner to a regulatory pharmaceutical specialist and clinical educator.7 The increasing number of academic fellowships indicates a growing demand for these experiences, and by pursuing this path, graduating pharmacists can prepare themselves for a career in academia.
Kimberly McKeirnan, PharmD, BCACP, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy at the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.