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Pharmacists will train in Rootstown

28-Jan-2007: ROOTSTOWN -- The Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Pharmacy is taking an interdisciplinary approach to educating future pharmacists: Putting them in some of the same classes with their peers at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine to train efficient and professional medical teams, improve patient outcomes, reduce medical errors and fill the shortage of trained pharmacists in Northeastern Ohio.

NEOUCOP, which will share the S.R. 44 campus with NEOUCOM, is currently gearing up to welcome its first 75-member class this fall. Before NEOUCOP, Northeastern Ohio lacked a pharmacy program

"We had employers telling us they desperately needed pharmacists," said Dr. Lois Margaret Nora, president of NEOUCOM and NEOUCOP. "We had students and parents calling us saying 'Please do something about this.' Many Northeastern Ohio students were in Pennsylvania getting their pharmacy degrees."

NEOUCOM had to document the shortage of pharmacists for the Ohio Board of Regents before receiving the go-ahead to build the program, according to Dr. David Allen, dean and professor at NEOUCOP.

Allen came to Portage County in January 2006 to be the founding dean of the college. An early interest in math and science, the "intriguing" mixture of science and business in the field of pharmacy and having an aunt who was a pharmacist helped form his interest in the profession, he said.

Allen later graduated from the University of Kentucky, where he earned a bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1985 and a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences in 1993.

Thirteen months after coming to Ohio, Allen said the colleges are transforming and building a curriculum in which medicine and pharmacy will intersect. Students from both colleges, Nora said, will attend clinical and pathology conferences together and interact with one another during rotations in the school's partner hospitals.

"The training is not identical, but the trainees are going to have substantial interaction with each other," she said. "They will have the appropriate respect for individuals from other disciplines and a real ability to go out there and work for the benefit of the patient."

The new college, announced in November 2005, is designed for a maximum enrollment of 300.

Nora said NEOUCOP has received three applications for every available spot in the inaugural class. Seventy percent of applicants also hail from Ohio, she said.

It also doesn't hurt the college's recruiting efforts for students to know the average salary of a pharmacist in Northeastern Ohio now exceeds $100,000.

"The job outlook is really, really good, and financially very solid," Allen said, as the population of the United States ages and more and more people are now taking multiple drugs.

Allen said NEOUCOP has identified and will expose future graduates to more than 90 career pathways, include working with the federal government, major pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, community pharmacies or in academia.

"Everyone from our hospital partners to major pharmaceutical employers in the region, they are so tickled about this. To speak candidly, they have excellent-paying jobs going without being filled. Those are the jobs that will help keep the students in our region," Nora said.

Renovations to existing facilities -- new instruction space, a pharmacy practice lab and a multidisciplinary laboratory for both medical and pharmacy students -- are ahead of schedule and should be completed by July. The 15,300 square foot multidisciplinary lab will have 35 work stations, 3 lab sections and seat 130 students. Allen said he has hired 13 pharmacy faculty members, and is seeking five or six more.

"I went after extremely talented people, the right people for the right time," he said.

NEOUCOM students even wrote a letter of support to regents during the creation and accreditation phase of the new college, which last week was awarded "Precandidate" accreditation status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the next step in the two and a half year process toward full accreditation.

"The doctors that graduate from NEOUCOM five years from now are going to be a different doctor because of their exposure to pharmacy, and the pharmacists that graduate are going to be different pharmacists because of their exposure to medicine," Nora said.

Source: Ravenna Record Courier

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