Faculty retention is an important determinant of the supply of faculty members. In 2005, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) formed the Task Force on Faculty Workforce to identify factors that may influence the supply of and demand for pharmacy faculty members. This paper describes one specific strategy deemed as being of exceptional importance: targeted orientation programs to educate new faculty members lacking a professional pharmacy background and/or degree in pharmacy. Most universities have new faculty orientation programs, and although a number of pharmacy schools supplement or replace these with their own orientation programs, the primary purpose is still to assist the faculty member in becoming established within the university. Including material in these program that would facilitate the enculturation of new faculty into academic pharmacy would have significant benefits in terms of (1) enhancing new faculty members' understanding about the pharmacy profession and the role their scientific disciplines play within the profession, and (2) orienting them to the breadth of teaching, service, and scholarly activities within their schools and colleges of pharmacy. Approaches that can assist with this enculturation process include providing new faculty members access to appropriate literature, developing collaborative mentoring activities, encouraging involvement in AACP and student activities, creating effective shadowing opportunities, organizing opportunities for interaction among all faculty members, and maximizing the effectiveness of faculty committee assignments. Making new faculty members feel connected to the profession and to the academy is expected to increase the likelihood that they will remain within the academy.
A general orientation to “life as a faculty member” is widely needed by all new faculty members, and those in our colleges and schools of pharmacy are no exception. Yet such an orientation is frequently left to informal hallway conversations or other unstructured processes. This discrepancy came to the attention of the AACP Council of Faculties/Council of Deans Task Force on Faculty Workforce during its examination of factors that influence faculty recruitment and retention. It became apparent that in order to enhance retention, schools and colleges need to pay attention to how they orient their faculty members to pharmacy practice and education. Without proper orientation, faculty members may not feel connected to the profession or to the academy and thus, may leave. This document provides several suggested approaches that should be incorporated into orientation programs in order to ensure that all faculty members have an appreciation of: (1) the evolving role of the pharmacist, (2) the educational objectives of the PharmD curriculum, and (3) how the integration of disciplines (the basic, pharmaceutical, social/administrative, and clinical sciences along with clinical practice) contributes to the educational continuum.
Doctor of pharmacy curricula typically start with the basic scientific understanding of a wide spectrum of concepts relevant to pharmacy, and then eventually integrate (translate) information from the sciences into pharmacy practice. Curricula then allow students to apply their scientific and clinical knowledge in a variety of experiential training opportunities. In order for PharmD students to successfully integrate their science knowledge into clinical practice, it would be ideal (however unrealistic) that they be taught by faculty members with strong backgrounds in both the sciences and pharmacy practice. Today many colleges of pharmacy employ a diverse faculty composed of both scientists and pharmacy practitioners, each with their respective strengths and weaknesses. It is therefore important that faculty members across disciplines appreciate that a solid foundation in both the sciences and clinical application is crucial for professional doctoral-trained students. All faculty members should be able to comfortably converse with each other, as well as with other pharmacy stakeholders, including pharmacy students and practitioners, and have at least a general appreciation of the practice environments into which their students enter. Among other things, this will enable them to include more realistic examples of application of their course content in their teaching. Faculty members with innovative research programs or practice models also make excellent ambassadors at alumni, donor, and stakeholder functions by describing exciting new research and practice programs within their disciplines.
Faculty members who have pharmacy degrees have varying levels of appreciation of the sciences, ranging from basic classroom exposure during their professional curricula to research training in postdoctoral clinical fellowships. At the other end of the spectrum are the increasing numbers of pharmacy faculty members who do not have pharmacy degrees. Also, those faculty members who do have pharmacy degrees may have pursued research-oriented training after graduation from pharmacy school (eg, PhD) and therefore have only limited exposure to clinical practice. Recognizing this continuum of talents, “cross-training” should become part of the orientation process for new faculty members. Those with limited research or laboratory exposure may want to share experiences with researchers, while those who do not have pharmacy degrees or did not practice pharmacy after receiving their degree could benefit from an orientation to pharmacy practice. There can be numerous benefits from such an approach. For example, faculty members in different departments and at larger schools can get to know each other better. This can, in turn, help them learn more about how to structure their own teaching relative to what their colleagues are doing, thereby becoming more effective instructors. In addition, the cross-discipline relationships that develop can lead to collaborative research or simply to a better understanding of their colleagues.