THE REWARDING PATH OF ACADEMIA AS A CAREER
PHARMACY TIMESRECENTLYheld a panel discussion on Careers inAcademia. Panelists, who includedstudents and faculty members, discusseda range of topics, includingthe future pipeline of pharmacistsentering academia, issues concerningcareer choices and career advancement,and pharmacy curriculum.
One major topic of conversationwas how pharmacy schools arepreparing students for practice.David Trang, RPh, assistant professorat the University of the IncarnateWord Feik School of Pharmacy inSan Antonio, Tex, thinks that whilepharmacy schools do an outstandingjob teaching students the professionaland technical skills they need toenter the workplace, he would like tosee more training for the managementand the business side of pharmacy.
"I would like to start a mentorshipprogram where a student is assignedwith a team of 5 other students, thengrows. This mentoring program willallow students to network with oneanother and learn leadership andmanagement," he said.
Many panelists felt mentorshipscould give students a better idea ofthe types of professional practice settingsavailable to them. "I think thekey is to get students to realize what isout there," said Mahmoud Sultan, astudent at Virginia CommonwealthUniversity.
"Whether it's at the student level, atthe graduate level, at the young practitionerlevel or mid-career level, I don'tthink we do a very good job of careerguiding and mentoring and development.I think there are lots of jobs outthere in pharmacy," said LucindaMaine, PhD, RPh, executive vice presidentof the American Association ofColleges of Pharmacy (AACP).
Panelists also debated the appropriatelevel of preprofessional preparationa student needs before enteringa professional doctoral degreeprogram and discussed the idea thatschools might be overeducatingpharmacists.
Since some schools accept studentsdirectly from high school while othersrequire a baccalaureate degree,panel moderator Stephen Eckel askedstudents if they would be discouragedfrom pursuing a pharmacy trackif it required an additional 2 years. Allof the panelists said they were committedto a career in pharmacy, butsaid they knew some students mightreconsider their track.
Some panelists suggested requiringstudents to have a more solid sciencefoundation before entering pharmacyschool. "You can move some of thecourses like biochemistry and anatomyand physiology, immunology,genetics, those core biomedicalcourses, into the pre-pharmacy curriculum,and then maybe that givesyou more opportunity to add electivesor more experiential time in theprofessional curriculum," said Maine.
Lawrence Brown, PharmD, PhD,assistant professor at the Universityof Tennessee Health Science Center,College of Pharmacy, feels there isvalue in having all pharmacy studentsstudy the same core, since 70% of hisschool's graduates do not complete aresidency. "I think having a core curriculum,but allowing students totake electives in various areas wouldallow them to easily switch back andforth," he said.
Maine said dual degree programs aregaining appeal. "The PharmD/MBA isthe dual degree that seems to have thegreatest appeal. Maybe it's the mostfeasible," she said. "You have dualdegrees with Masters of Public Health,and you have the research track dualdegree for the PharmD/PhD model oflearning.We are very excited and hopeto reconceptualize a PharmD/MastersClinical Science model."
"I am hoping that if we are successfulin maturing this clinical scientistprogram to achieve a critical mass ofclinical scholars that there will be agreater number of PharmD-trainedpeople who really find out that theirgreatest excitement and fulfillment isreally in classic research, even thoughto a lot of these clinical scientists, laboratorywill be the bedside or thecommunity in practice-relevantresearch," said Maine. "I think theremay be larger numbers of pharmacygraduates to go on for the classic PhDin the biomedical sciences or pharmacologybecause they have gottenbit by the research bug as a functionof their education."
Maine said she also hoped the dualdegree tracking option could help createa critical mass of clinical scientiststo help with the faculty shortage. Thepharmacist shortage is affecting academiaas well as community pharmacy.In fact, JoLaine Draugalis, PhD, RPh,University of Arizona and past presidentof AACP, made addressing thefaculty shortage her priority at theAACP meeting. "I called it recruitment,retention, and renewal," she said.
Participants felt that a greater effortshould be made to steer more studentstoward an academic career. "Alot of students don't realize that whenyou get your PhD, usually the educationis paid for," said Brown. Mostpanelists felt that lower pay scaleskept more students from consideringacademia. "Honestly, I think thesalary in academia just puts academiaout of the thought process for manystudents," said Brown.
Trang recently joined academiaafter spending 7 years in communitypharmacy, and as a faculty memberof a new pharmacy school has theopportunity to serve on committeesas well as numerous other types ofprojects. His career experience atWal-Mart has provided him with theopportunity to collaborate outsidethe pharmacy school with businessschool faculty. "I have developed aninterest in pharmacoeconomics, so Ihave been able to learn that on myown," said Trang. "It gives you theautonomy to do things outside ofyour usual realm."
"I have always enjoyed teaching, andI really enjoy working with students," said Bobbi Sislo, a student at the Universityof Minnesota. "I think it is veryimportant that we take an active role inhow we want pharmacy to be seen, andI really want to be a part of that."
Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based inChevy Chase, Md.