ANNAPOLIS- To meet the growing demand for pharmacists, Baltimore’s College of Notre Dame took the first step Wednesday toward adding a doctoral program in pharmacy – specializing in women’s health – to its liberal arts program.
A Maryland Higher Education Commission committee moved the Notre Dame pharmacy proposal on to the full commission, which is scheduled to consider it February 14. If approved by the full board, Notre Dame would open the program to 65 students in the fall of 2008.
“This program addresses an incredible need in the overall health care system, especially as the population ages,” said Joann Boughman, a commission member and education policy committee member who supported the proposal.
The North Baltimore women’s college decided to add pharmacy to its liberal arts curriculum to meet the growing demand of pharmacists statewide and nationally. The program will be open to men and women, but the focus will be on women’s health.
Currently, the state has only one accredited pharmacy school, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. David A. Knapp, dean of the Maryland School of Pharmacy, said he supports the Notre Dame proposal.
“Pharmaceutical education must expand to meet society’s needs and a constellation of diverse schools and colleges of pharmacy can only help produce the best mix of pharmacy graduates to meet the varied needs of society,” he said in a statement.
An industry shortfall of 157,000 pharmacists will exist by 2020, according to a 2002 study by Knapp published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. This shortage expands daily as the baby boomer generation of pharmacists retires and as the population ages.
In Maryland, the need is particularly pressing in rural areas, and pockets of Prince George’s County, said Lynette Bradley-Baker, pharmacist recruiter for CVS pharmacy. Bradley-Baker said that the country needs 6,100 pharmacists and the state needs 400 to 500.
The Notre Dame program would be what is known as a “first-professional degree,” which allows students without four-year degrees to be accepted into what is normally a graduate level program. Although, a bachelor’s degree is not required, a potential student needs 65 to 70 hours of coursework with a science emphasis from a regionally accredited institution, and a 2.5 grade point average to be accepted.
Suzanne Shipley, dean of faculty and vice president of academic affairs at Notre Dame, said the college wants to add pharmacy because of its growing appeal to women and minorities. In 2005, women received 68 percent of first-professional pharmacy degrees, and minorities accounted for 12.3 percent of students enrolled in first-professional programs, according to a 2006 report from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
The degree being proposed by Notre Dame differs from other programs because it would focus on women’s health care over the lifespan of a patient and would emphasize patient care. The program would be less about giving out medication and more about counseling patients, which fits the college’s liberal arts background, Shipley said.
Shipley said that the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy has a reputation as a research-oriented school, and that the Notre Dame program would be more student-oriented. Due to the shortage of pharmacists, Notre Dame will likely face the challenge of hiring qualified faculty and preceptors, or faculty who train and oversee students in professional settings, officials said.