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To the Editor. I was delighted to see the article “Impact of a Pharmacy Education Concentration on Students' Teaching Knowledge and Attitudes”1 in your March issue. I am a P4 student currently participating in an academic rotation. During the course of my experience, I have found myself wondering, “Why aren't more pharmacy students looking to academia as a career option and what can be done to change this?” After thinking about what I had learned during previous years of my pharmacy school education, I came to the conclusion that students are not introduced to the idea of academia as a career until too late in their studies; a fourth year rotation experience should not be a student's first introduction to the world of academia.
Much of pharmacy education focuses on becoming a good clinical practitioner. However, pharmacists also have a teaching role, regardless of setting. Pharmacists educate patients, other health care practitioners, technicians, and students in both classroom and practice settings. We need effective pharmacists in practice, but we also need effective faculty members to develop students into practitioners. If colleges and schools fail to introduce academia as a career option, they will soon find themselves without faculty members to instruct incoming students. Steps need to be taken so that greater numbers of students become cognizant of academia as a career. Reading this article made me hopeful that steps are being taken to address this concern. I was curious to know whether other schools were also offering courses in education. After reviewing Web sites of pharmacy schools across the United States, I found very few schools that included this option as part of their course offerings. Courses similar to the one described in the article should become more common in the elective offerings of pharmacy schools across the nation. If students learn how to teach, they may be more inclined to use those skills. There may be a fair number of students who confirm their “calling” after taking such a course. There may also be students who join these electives out of curiosity and realize that academia suits their personality and goals.
In addition to this path of introduction, I would also propose that first-year pharmacy students be introduced to academia through their introductory pharmacy practice experiences (IPPEs). The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education 2007 standards, guideline 14, states that “most pharmacy practice experiences must be under the supervision of qualified pharmacist preceptors licensed in the United States.”2 In addition, guideline 14.1 states “Preceptors should hold full, shared, adjunct, or other defined positions in the college or school…”2 If the preceptors for IPPEs are recommended to hold a position in the college or school of pharmacy, this would be an ideal opportunity for introduction of academia by simply enlightening students about the different roles they perform. Allowing students to experience academia as a specialized IPPE would create an additional, more focused opportunity for students' interest in academia to be nurtured. The student's experience could then culminate with an academic rotation during the fourth year.
More pharmacy schools should consider following the example of the University of Southern Illinois School of Pharmacy. It is my hope that pharmacy schools will recognize the need to encourage students to investigate academia sooner in their education and will take active measures to help their graduates fulfill one of the promises found in the Oath of a Pharmacist: “I will use my knowledge, skills, experiences, and values to prepare the next generation of pharmacists.”3