The purpose of this study was to assess the breadth and depth of pharmacogenomics content instruction, the importance of these topics as perceived by respondents, and whether faculty development was available relative to these areas in US colleges of pharmacy. The results, where applicable, were also to be compared to those determined previously by Latif and McKay.
In the current study, 69 of 75 (92.0%) colleges were reported to be teaching pharmacogenomics within any their programs, and 67 (89.3%) colleges were teaching it within their current PharmD curriculum. This is up from 78% of programs providing this content in any program found by Latif and McKay, and 39% providing it in the PharmD curriculum.
Findings in this study with regard to who provides instruction is consistent with Latif and McKay's findings of 28 (68.3%) multiple and 3 (7.3%) single faculty members responsible for instruction. Thus, the content tends to be handled in team taught courses rather than provided by a single faculty member with expertise in the areas. There was an increase in the number of colleges requiring specific prerequisite coursework (15, 21.7%) compared to the previous study (5, 12.2%).
In pharmacogenomics, organization of the content was similar to what was found by Latif and McKay where 4 (9.8%) of their responding colleges taught it as a standalone course, 19 (46.3%) included it as part of another didactic course, and 1 (2.4%) taught it as a standalone elective. This is also what would be expected relative to who teaches because incorporation into other courses might lend itself to team teaching.
Latif and McKay found that 20 (49%) colleges of pharmacy planned to hire at least 1 additional faculty member in this area within the 3 years following their survey. Fifteen (20.0%) of the responding colleges planned to hire faculty members in this area within the next 3 years. Though this might indicate a reduction in interest, it might also reflect that more content is already being taught by faculty hired in recent years.
Pharmacogenomics instruction appeared to be provided in roughly similar percentages of postgraduate programs (11, 15.9% MS; 27, 39.1% PhD) as found by Latif and McKay (16, 39% Masters/PhD/other). Graduate programs in 3 (4.9%) of the respondents' colleges in the current study offered MS degrees and 7 (10.1%) colleges offered PhD degrees in pharmacogenomics related areas.
With regard to breadth of content coverage, Latif and McKay evaluated 2 domains of competencies. They found 11 (55%) out of their 20 items of genetic basis of disease and 3 (33.3%) of the 9 items from ethical applications and social and economic implications were being addressed by the majority of the respondents' colleges. In this study, 11 of 16 (69%) of the first domain were covered by more than 50%, but only 2 of 9 of the second domain. Though there is considerable coverage of some pharmacogenomics related topics, many were not covered at all by many colleges. Since the competencies were developed by AACP and a national organization suggesting core competencies for all health care professionals, there is room to expand pharmacogenomics topics taught in the curriculum.3,11
The primary finding of this study is that the majority of colleges of pharmacy are now providing some level of pharmacogenomic instruction within their curriculum, indicating an increased awareness of the need to do so, and thus demonstrating alignment with AACP recommendations about including this material within the PharmD curriculum. The secondary finding is the somewhat limited focus in faculty development for this subject matter.
Increased awareness of pharmacogenomics over the last 5 years, and emphasis on the area from AACP, ACPE, and the NCHPEG core competencies, are likely contributing factors in the differences between the 2 studies. Over the past 5 years, considerable attention to pharmacogenomics-related topics has been given by many journals and the lay press.14
For example, in 2005 Moridani noted the word pharmacogenomics or pharmacogenetics had been included in 5 journal titles.10
This emphasis helps increase the awareness of its potential value to patient care.
On the other hand, perceptions of the respondents relative to the state of instruction at other colleges of pharmacy declined (poor or not at all adequate, 46, 61.3%) compared to those found by Latif and McKay, where almost half of the respondents believed that the level of instruction was average (36.6%) or better (12.2%). Perhaps respondents believe that the quality of instruction is not adequate because of the advances in pharmacogenomics over the last 5 years. Interestingly, the respondents' opinions of their own college were much better, perhaps due to greater knowledge of efforts being made at their campus than elsewhere.
Although colleges plan to increase the number of coursework hours, there appears to be some disconnect between plans to increase coursework hours without preparing, hiring, or developing faculty members to teach this subject. Plans for developing a pharmacogenomic center of excellence and research focus, as well as working with industry, could contribute to a lack of need for faculty development since these options would likely include having faculty members who are knowledgeable on the subjects available for mentoring others as needed. No questions were asked to better understand this disconnect, leaving room for further investigation.
There were several potential limitations to this study. One relates to identification of the most appropriate individual to answer the questionnaire. Though deans would likely know the appropriate contact, it is possible that the selected individual may not have been the best person to provide the most accurate data. Another potential limitation is that some of the responses may have been simply a “best guess.” The survey instrument limitations stated by Latif and McKay hold true for this study as well.2
Since the content areas for the questionnaires in both studies were based on AACP's Academic Affairs Committee recommendations and NCHPEG suggested core competencies, they may have missed content that would be considered important by some college of pharmacy faculty for their curriculum. For example, one respondent suggested that other content such as proteomics, which allows for the bigger picture of discovering biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of human disease, should be considered in the development of pharmacogenomic curricula. A few respondents provided comments about the way questions were asked. For instance, concern was expressed that the questionnaire may have been geared towards non-integrated teaching and one observed that responses regarding importance of content would vary depending on the type of faculty member responding to the items. Even with these limitations, the results suggest continued progress and academic enhancements in the area of pharmacogenomics.
Though it was not the intent of this study to be prescriptive about course content in the area of pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics, the results provide information on what the respondents believe is being taught in their colleges and schools of pharmacy. This information might be useful to committees contemplating content additions or deletions for their curriculum. There are many challenges associated with determining what must and should be in a pharmacy curriculum, and most often these challenges relate to adding more with a relatively fixed number of hours available for teaching. Knowing what other colleges may be teaching and what some faculty consider important may have some utility.