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Promoting Ohio Pharmacy Programs: Getting Students to Fill the Pharmacy Gaps

Thursday, March 22, 2001 at 5:23 AM

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Yesterday we told you how the increased use of medications, expanded health insurance coverage, and longer schooling are making for strong competition in the health industry for pharmacists. Today, 90.3's Renita Jablonski looks at how educators in northern Ohio are fighting back against the pharmacist shortage.

High School Student- I heard pharmacists made a lot of money so it changed my mind a little bit.

Renita Jablonski- Jennifer Nagy’s job is to get students like this ninth-grader from John F. Kennedy High School interested in pharmacy. She’s a college coordinator for Pharmacy and Natural Sciences with the University of Toledo. With the nationwide shortage, pharmacy’s definitely her focus these days.

Jennifer Nagy- What I’m doing is I’m going out promoting pharmacy, talking about careers in pharmacy and really getting students some more information about the profession, telling them how varied it is, how many different things they can do with a pharmacy degree but also talking about the perks.

RJ- The “perk” that gets the most attention? The big bucks.

JN- Our average starting salary that we’re seeing from our students is $75,000 for that first job out of school and they’re also getting a high number of job offers. We’re seeing students receive an average of four job offers each before they even graduate and become licensed to be a practicing pharmacist.

RJ- Nagy spent part of this week pitching pharmacy to Cleveland high schoolers during a health careers fair at Cleveland State University. At the same time, C.S.U. and the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy were working on their own pitch.

The two schools are joining forces to help ease the lack of pharmacists. Laura Martin is Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cleveland State. She says Toledo asked Cleveland for help.

Laura Martin- Their proposal was specifically that we would provide the first two years of science training to those students and our science programs are quite strong and that then those students having been dually admitted to the two institutions would be able to go directly into the pharmacy programs at Toledo.

RJ- The goal of the U.T./C.S.U. program not only aims at combating the need for more pharmacists in the area, but giving Cleveland area students more opportunities to pursue the six-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Rick Berns is the President of the Northern Ohio Acedemy of Pharmacy and a pharmacist at a Medic Drug near Solon.

Rick Berns- I think that’s an excellent idea and that could certainly only help the shortage and I think it enables a lot of students that for whatever reason may not be able to get to Toledo the first two years, it allows them to stay home, commute to Cleveland State.

RJ- A federal study published in December shows that from 1994 to 1999, there were 33% fewer pharmacy school applicants. U.T.’s Interim Provost, William Free, says this program should help boost numbers.

William Free- It’s a very important priority, we in fact, the current class in pharmacy has about 95 students in it we expect to go to 125 to 150 within the next few years.

RJ- But the new collaboration won’t be successful standing on its own. Recruitment efforts like Nagy’s will have to step up, with more educators talking to students earlier. Martin says it’s also a good way to highlight the region as well.

LM- I think that publicizing the opportunities here in the northern third of the state because as you know, Toledo is the only pharmacy program in a public institution in our northern half really, of the state. Making it more visible we expect to be able to recruit more students into that program from the Cleveland area who might not have considered pharmacy as a career because there isn’t anything here locally that would put it in front of them.

RJ- Under the agreement, the schools plan to admit up to 30 high school graduates to both C.S.U. and U.T. in the fall of 2001 and each year following.

RJ to student: Is there anything besides the money that really caught your attention?

Student: Um…

And no matter grabs their attention, getting students to give pharmacy a second look.

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