October 23, 2019
On October 9, almost ten years to the day that the College of Pharmacy (COP) held a dedication ceremony for its then-brand new building, faculty, professional staff, and students gathered in the hallway of that same building to commemorate the college’s decade anniversary. In marking the 10th year milestone, members of the college and university community celebrated all the things that make COP the special place that it is.
College of Pharmacy Dean Robert McCarthy, Ph.D. FAPhA, spoke of the day’s significance. “I think of the 10-year mark as an important one,” he said. “It is an anniversary like this that causes you to reflect on how we got here and the people who worked so hard.”
The event did, indeed, elicited a good deal of reflection. McCarthy gave a brief history of the college, noting that it was back in 1998 when then-UNE President Sandra Featherman engaged Douglas Kay, Ph.D., a Maine native and retired dean of Duquesne University’s School of Pharmacy, to conduct a feasibility study that explored the possibility of creating a college of pharmacy at UNE. Kay made a formal recommendation in favor of the college in 1999, but the project was set aside for several years.
Under the presidency of Danielle Ripich, the feasibility study was reevaluated by John Cormier, Pharm.D., former dean of pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina, who again pulled in Kay for his expertise. In 2007, the UNE Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the College of Pharmacy, pending the attainment of funds. Cormier, as founding dean, and Kay, as executive associate dean, went to work securing the funding.
With Cormier returning to his home in South Carolina and Kay stepping into the role of dean, the first class of UNE’s College of Pharmacy was welcomed in September of 2009.
In his address at the anniversary celebration, McCarthy fast-forwarded to this past spring when the college, for the first time, was eligible for the maximum number of years of re-accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and, in fact, received the full eight years, meeting all 25 accreditation standards.
“When people say, ‘Well, how is the UNE pharmacy school different?’ I talk about four things: one – that we’re student-centered; two – the international experiences we offer; third is the student-faculty research opportunities; fourth is our strength in interprofessional education.” -- Dean Robert McCarthy, Ph.D., FAPhA
UNE President James Herbert attended the event and spoke about what he considers the College of Pharmacy’s greatest strengths and milestones. In addition to mentioning the achievement of the eight-year accreditation, Herbert noted COP’s focus on interprofessional education, its research accomplishments, and its university-wide leadership in representing and celebrating diversity within the college. He also mentioned the newly launched College of Pharmacy magazine, Navigator – something that he considers a mark of “coming into the zone and maturing.”
In a post-event interview, McCarthy discussed the four aspects of the College of Pharmacy that he believes best differentiate it from other schools of pharmacy –aspects that, not surprisingly, overlap, if not align almost perfectly, with those highlighted by Herbert.
“When people say, ‘Well, how is the UNE pharmacy school different?’ I talk about four things: one -- that we’re student-centered; two – the international experiences we offer; third is the student-faculty research opportunities; fourth is our strength in interprofessional education,” enumerated McCarthy.
“Everyone claims they’re ‘student-centered,’ but we really are. The relationship between the faculty and staff and students is very strong,” McCarthy stated. He said the college has cultivated an intensely robust sense of community that results in happy students and a low turn-over rate among faculty and professional staff. In fact, a significant number of employees in the college have been part of UNE COP since its inception. “The strong support system, the community that we’ve built here, the relationships between the faculty and the students, the great respect we have for our professional staff and how integral they are to what we do, it has all made for a wonderful environment for people,” he asserted.
Rachel Naida, Pharm.D., CDE, assistant clinical professor in COP’s Department of Pharmacy Practice, was a student in the college’s inaugural Class of 2013. With a unique perspective as both a former student and as a current faculty member, she has experienced the college’s sense of camaraderie from multiple angles. “The College of Pharmacy is now a family for me,” she said. “I have so much respect for all of the employees and students that are a part of making this college so successful and such a great culture and community.”
One component of community-building, of course, is creating a sense of inclusivity, and, for COP that means celebrating diversity. McCarthy is proud of the college’s efforts to make cross-cultural sensitivity a priority. An annual diversity event is just one example of how COP honors multiculturalism. McCarthy encourages pharmacy students to see the connection between being knowledgeable about cultural differences and the work that they will do as practicing pharmacists. “I tell our students all the time, you’re going to work with the most diverse group of patients in the history of the United States,” he said.
One way in which COP seeks to grow its diversity is to offer a new Advanced Standing Track that will enable foreign-trained pharmacists to obtain their American Pharm.D. in just three years. The college is currently working with universities in India, Saudi Arabia, and other countries that have issued bachelor’s degrees in pharmacy to people who would like to practice in the United States. The program could be up and running by as early as next summer.
The strong support system, the community that we’ve built here, the relationships between the faculty and the students, the great respect we have for our professional staff and how integral they are to what we do, it has all made for a wonderful environment for people.” -- Dean Robert McCarthy, Ph.D., FAPhA
Just as the College of Pharmacy’s commitment to diversity manifests in providing educational opportunities to those with pharmacy degrees from other countries, it is also apparent in the opportunities that COP offers its “traditional” students to study abroad—another key differentiating factor about the college in McCarthy’s assessment. “We had two weeks this summer when we had students on two continents at the same time,” McCarthy said proudly. With regularly scheduled trips to Ghana, Spain, and Thailand, UNE offers opportunities for pharmacy students to travel globally, engaging in culturally immersive experiences.
The third area, according to McCarthy, in which the college distinguishes itself from other schools of pharmacy is the abundance of research opportunities for students. The Dean Summer Research Fellowship, for example, supports student-faculty pairs who conduct research projects over the summer and then present findings to the Dean’s Advisory Council in the fall. McCarthy continues to explore new ways to encourage student research. He has recently proposed a new Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences program that will be research-based and will require a thesis. The preliminary proposal has been approved, and the college is currently working on a full proposal for the new program.
The College of Pharmacy’s dedication to interprofessional education (IPE) received high praise from Herbert at the anniversary celebration, and McCarthy agrees that it is one of UNE COP’s stand-out traits. He says that the college’s strength in IPE is the result of the comprehensive manner in which is it addressed in the classroom. “People say, ‘Alright, we’ll do interprofessional education practice, and they do it as an add-on. The way to do it is to embed it in the core curriculum,” McCarthy insists. “When it’s part of the core curriculum, that means not just a few of our students do it. All of our students do it.” He gives significant credit to Emily Dornblaser, Pharm.D., M.S., BCPS, assistant dean for interprofessional education, for developing an interprofessional education plan that aligns the year-by-year academic goals of the pharmacy program with interprofessional activities involving students from UNE’s other health professions disciplines.
Not only does the College of Pharmacy champion collaborative work across the health sciences fields in terms of education and clinical training, but it even offers a dual-degree program that combines pharmacy study with the field of public health: the Pharm.D./Graduate Certificate in Public Health. McCarthy envisions a future specialty track in veterinary pharmacy.
Currently, the college is expanding its recognition of how pharmacy can effectively combine with an entirely different field: business. With a new agreement with the University of Maine, students can complete their first two years of pharmacy school, take a whole year of business courses at UMaine, then return to COP for their final two years. They graduate in five years with a Pharm.D. and an MBA.
“The College of Pharmacy is now a family for me. I have so much respect for all of the employees and students that are a part of making this college so successful and such a great culture and community.” -- Rachel Naida, Pharm.D., CDE, assistant clinical professor
The new program recognizes a growing interest among students in the pharmaceutical industry. According to pharmacy student Chase Palmer (’20), president of UNE’s chapter of the Industry Pharmacists Organization, COP is making strides in serving those interested in industry professions. He cites new industry electives in the curriculum and believes that under McCarthy’s leadership, the college is capable of achieving great success in preparing students for industry careers. “With Dean McCarthy’s experience with the industry field and our students’ ongoing pursuit of rigorous academic development and professional success, I believe the University will be able to add yet another feather in its cap as a leader in the field,” he remarked.
It is abundantly apparent that there is another asset of the College of Pharmacy – beyond its student-centeredness and commitment to community, above its dedication to diversity and global experience, outside its strength in interprofessional education and cross-disciplinary learning, and past its rich opportunities for student research, and yet, at the same time, touching all of these strengths. It is the UNE College of Pharmacy’s dynamism and innovative spirit – its willingness to evolve and grow.
In one decade, the college has created three internal departments: Pharmacy Practice, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the recently established Social and Administrative Pharmacy, which encompasses health policy, ethics law, outcomes, communications and more. In addition, COP has organized specialty tracks that students can choose by organizing their electives appropriately. Newly added to the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Integrative Medicine tracks is a Health Data Analytics track.
“Whether you’ve been here 10 years, or whether this is your first year, what we’ve done here has had a far greater impact than we realize. This anniversary is a unique moment to pause and reflect on the tremendous magnitude of our 632 pharmacists that provide access to better health care every day.” -- Kenneth McCall, B.S.Pharm., Pharm.D., BCGP, RPh, FAPhA, professor and director of Residency Programs and Professional Affairs
Other changes came three years ago with the implementation of a new curriculum. McCarthy says that what makes it unique is its longitudinal aspect. There are courses that span the first three years of the curriculum, building upon themselves with each semester. It is also faculty-intensive, requiring a great deal of coordination among instructors. Naida commented on the changes in the curriculum. “In my opinion, the quality of the curriculum gets stronger every year. And this, of course, is not by chance but by continuous efforts from all employees to identify areas in which it can be enhanced and then creating strategies and processes for making these changes,” she commented. “The nature of the curriculum now is very integrative, and, thus, we all work together on a daily basis in each course. Having so many people working together provides diverse learning opportunities and creates a culture of seeking continued growth, which, I believe, is very important.”
Another prospective addition to the college is a proposed “in course” bachelor’s degree in pharmacy science, which would grant a bachelor’s degree to students after completion of the second year of pharmacy school. If approved, it will be a welcomed transformation, as, McCarthy points out, not all pharmacy students possess a bachelor’s degree. In addition to the proposed master’s degree, the new Pharm.D./MBA degree, and the proposed Advanced Standing track, the potential in course bachelor’s degree reflects the college’s ongoing effort to adapt to the needs of its students.
Those efforts compose a worthwhile investment, as UNE’s pharmacy students have gone on to do great things. Now with seven graduated classes under its belt, COP has 632 alumni throughout the U.S., working in a wide range of professional settings, including community pharmacies, critical access hospitals, underserved rural areas, level one trauma centers, nursing homes, specialty pharmacies, federal pharmacies, public health services, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Kenneth McCall, B.S.Pharm., Pharm.D., BCGP, RPh, FAPhA, professor and director of Residency Programs and Professional Affairs, is one of the original faculty members in the college. He spoke at the anniversary event, remarking on the impact of the college’s first decade. “Whether you’ve been here 10 years, or whether this is your first year, what we’ve done here has had a far greater impact than we realize,” he said. “This anniversary is a unique moment to pause and reflect on the tremendous magnitude of our 632 pharmacists that provide access to better health care every day.”
Just as McCall views the milestone as an opportunity to reflect on all the ways the college’s students have changed the world for the better, student Megan Scalia (’21), who attended the celebration, was reminded by the anniversary of the value added by COP to her life. “Hearing that we got the full eight-year re-accreditation and celebrating the ten-year anniversary was a great feeling of knowing that I made the right choice of coming here for pharmacy school,” she said. “I know that this college will continue to grow, and I can’t wait to see what the next ten years will bring.”