CORVALLIS - Oregon State University, which offers the only professional pharmacy training program in the state, is strengthening its ties with Oregon Health & Science University to collaborate on pharmacy education.
Officials from the two universities signed an agreement that will bring 65 OSU students to the OHSU campus in Portland this fall as part of their Pharm.D. curriculum. The agreement will give pharmacy students greater access to health care practitioners and medical facilities, enriching their education, said Wayne Kradjan, dean of the OSU College of Pharmacy.
"Essentially we are formalizing and expanding a previous joint degree program," Kradjan said. "Our professional education program is enhanced with strong linkages to the abundance of health practice opportunities in Portland. Yet the research and graduate programs in our college have strong links with other OSU programs in Corvallis, including the Gene Research and Biotechnology Center, the Linus Pauling Institute, and the Environmental Health Sciences Center.
"We really have the best of both worlds with a presence on two campuses," he added.
Under the new agreement, pharmacy students will spend their first two years on the OSU campus, and their third year on the OHSU campus. Courses at OHSU will be taught by OSU College of Pharmacy faculty who are housed on that campus. The fourth year in the program will be spent doing apprenticeships, pharmacy rotations and internships, supervised by pharmacists around the state.
Students graduating from the program continue to receive a joint degree from both universities.
"What pleases me about this partnership is that two great institutions are working together to create better opportunities for high-achieving students in a program that benefits the entire region," said OSU President Paul Risser. "At OSU, we are constantly seeking these kinds of long-term collaborative arrangements - ones that put the education of students and conducting valuable research first, and yet benefit both organizations."
OSU has offered the entry level Pharm.D. program for two years and the first cohort of 65 pharmacy students will go to OHSU this fall. The number is expected to grow to 75 students next year as the two universities seek to meet the growing need for pharmacy graduates throughout the state and region.
As the population ages and new drug therapies are developed, the number of pharmacy jobs is expected to skyrocket. In Oregon and nationally, the recruitment for pharmacists is intense. Most recent OSU graduates received multiple job offers with annual starting salaries in the $70,000 to $75,000 range.
Analysts also predict that the role of pharmacists will begin to change, Kradjan said, to emphasize consultation more than the dispensing of drugs. "Even though the number of prescriptions is expected to rise by one-third - to about 4 billion annually - by the year 2004, much of the dispensing work will be handled by technicians or robotic technology," Kradjan said. "Pharmacists will play a much more visible and defined role in meeting with physicians and with patients on drug therapies and disease management.
"It will become especially important to target those patients with the greatest risk," he added, "such as persons with diabetes, hypertension, asthma and high cholesterol."
All of that underscores the importance of exposing Oregon pharmacy students to the high quality and complexity of medical care available, pointed out Lesley Hallick, the provost at OHSU who also is a member of OSU's Board of Advisors.
"This new curriculum is a very exciting opportunity for OHSU," Hallick said. "It will allow future pharmacists to train more extensively alongside other health care professionals in an academic health center environment. As they learn together, these professionals will have a better opportunity to develop the relationships they need to work together outside of the school community."
OSU's College of Pharmacy has been informally connected with OHSU for the last two decades. Some OSU faculty members have been on campus during those years and the two schools have offered the joint Pharm.D. degree to a small number of students since the 1990s.
The new agreement formalizes and expands the relationship. In addition to completing the conversion from a baccalaureate to a doctoral level program, the new agreement will expand OSU's faculty involvement in Portland. The College of Pharmacy will be a more visible part of the professional health and science environment that includes the OHSU Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Science and Engineering.
"Right now, we have 10 of our 28 faculty members who spend much of their time in Portland," Kradjan said. "Most of our future growth likely will be in Portland and not only in education. I see an expanded role for our faculty in clinic settings, professional practice, and basic research."