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To the Editor. A significant demand for pharmacy faculty members currently exists in the United States, with 53% of vacancies being practice faculty positions. This demand is expected to continue to increase over the next 10 years.1 The Academy has recognized the need for recruiting more faculty members, and new initiatives have been developed through the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) to expose potential faculty candidates to academic careers. The most effective venues for recruitment, however, remain one-on-one relationships between pharmacy students or residents and current faculty members who express enthusiasm for their careers, and learners with a budding interest in making their professional mark through the role and responsibilities of the academy.
As a resident, the opportunity to connect with my faculty mentor and discuss academia was an important experience that reinforced my decision to apply to the Wal-Mart Scholars program and attend the 2009 AACP annual meeting. While the timing of the meeting may be logistically simpler for students in their final year of the PharmD program, residents and students attend for different reasons and with different outcomes. Fourth-year students may be intrigued by a career in academia, and this exposure may influence their residency choice; whereas, for residents, attending the annual meeting solidifies their interest in the career path, and starts giving them valuable skills to begin looking at faculty positions at various schools.
The timing of the annual meeting may impede many residents from attending, as most are still within their first month of a residency program and may not have thought to orchestrate planning in advance with their residency director. With the variety of events taking place when transitioning from student to resident (eg, graduation, licensing examinations, possibly moving to a new part of the country for residency), it is unlikely that a new graduate would consider attending this meeting without suggestion and encouragement.
The reasons I felt it was a successful meeting to attend as a resident are threefold. Residents are in a unique position, being both learners and teachers, and can draw from recent experiences as students. Being in this pivotal position allowed me to see purpose behind the curriculum, but also challenge the status quo, asking, “how could this be done better so students can experience appreciation for what they are learning?”
As residents are in the early phase of their programs when decisions about residency projects are made, the posters and learning sessions can be beneficial in sparking interests that may have been undiscovered previously. I was excited by the programming that was of relevance to the evolving world of pharmacy academia, and my own residency project, which focused on the evaluation of students' performance on objective structure clinical examinations (OSCEs), one that I hoped to present as a result of my meeting experience.
Finally, I gained a great deal from the networking experiences that I had. As I am in my second year of residency and planning to pursue a career in academia and practice, the timing could not have been better to begin making contacts that might lead to long-term professional relationships. The timing made more sense for the conversations regarding future opportunities to take place with me as a resident, than as a student because of the nature of my advanced training.
There clearly are barriers to residents attending the AACP Annual Meeting, even though both residents and the academy would benefit from increased resident attendance. Therefore, residency program directors and preceptors, new graduates transitioning into residencies, and faculty members from schools and colleges of pharmacy should assume a shared responsibility to ensure these opportunities are fully realized. As students progress through APPEs, preceptors and faculty mentors should be engaged in discussions with them about future plans, identifying students who are interested and well-suited for a career in academia. Because the application process occurs well before residents are able to make a personal connection with residency preceptors, the mentorship provided by pharmacy faculty members should extend beyond the PharmD program; faculty members should consider serving as mentors to PharmD students who are interested in completing residencies. Efforts should be coordinated with residency directors in advance to request time off to attend the Annual Meeting.