Acute Shortage of Faculty at U.S. Pharmacy Schools Threatens Efforts to Solve Nation’s Pharmacist Shortage
New $12 Million Scholarship Campaign Launched to Recruit New Teachers
Washington, D.C.; July 29, 2003 - Citing new evidence that an acute shortage of professors at U.S. pharmacy schools threatens to escalate an already severe shortfall of practicing pharmacists, the nation’s oldest pharmacy foundation is taking action to attract additional qualified people into careers teaching the next generation of pharmacists.
At a Washington news conference today, the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) -- joined by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and leaders of the pharmacy community -- launched Investing in the Future of Pharmacy Education, an ambitious privately financed scholarship campaign to attract more students to teaching careers at U.S. schools of pharmacy. The campaign, which will be financed by a wide variety of corporations, foundations and individual donors, is expected to raise $12 million to fund scholarships that support students preparing for pharmacy faculty positions and that support new pharmacy faculty pursuing groundbreaking pharmaceutical research.
Coinciding with a move by Congressional leaders to pass the Pharmacy Education Aid Act of 2003 -- which would increase the ability of colleges and schools of pharmacy to educate more pharmacists -- AFPE’s new scholarship campaign represents a major effort by the private sector pharmacy community to address the acute shortfall of teachers at U.S. schools of pharmacy. AFPE’s program will award up to 155 annual scholarships to students pursuing pharmacy degrees that qualify them for careers teaching at schools or colleges of pharmacy. Already, AFPE has raised $3.5 million in contributions towards this important scholarship program.
"The shortage of licensed pharmacists is having a detrimental impact on the provision of health care services in the country,” said Senator Reed. “Unless we recruit enough faculty to train the next generation of pharmacists, the quality of health care for all Americans may suffer, especially for our older citizens. I commend AFPE for launching this new scholarship campaign and I encourage companies, foundations, and private donors to support this important new program.”
Senator Reed has sponsored legislation to increase financial assistance to students, faculty and schools of pharmacy in order to encourage more students to pursue careers in pharmacy and provide pharmacists to underserved areas of the country. In 2001, an amendment authored by Senator Reed that created a four-year pilot program to make pharmacy students eligible for loan repayments under the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) in exchange for a two-year commitment to serve in areas of the country where significant shortages of medical professionals persist was included in the Safety Net Amendment Act of 2001.
New Data Defines Extent of Faculty Shortage at Pharmacy Schools
The urgent need for AFPE’s campaign is confirmed by the results of a December 2002 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP. The survey sought to determine the extent and cause of the faculty shortage at the nation’s 84 colleges and schools of pharmacy. The 67 schools that responded reported a total of 417 vacant teaching posts -- an average of more than six vacancies at each school-- the majority in the areas of pharmacy practice (223 vacancies) and pharmaceutical science (190 vacancies). Moreover, most of these vacancies are for full-time teaching positions (94.3 percent); only 5 percent of the vacancies are part-time teaching slots.
The reason for this shortfall, AACP reports, is a brain drain at the nation’s pharmacy schools as pharmacy professors are being recruited away for higher paying clinical pharmacy jobs at hospitals and research positions in the pharmaceutical industry (32 percent). They are also being hired away by other pharmacy schools (29 percent) to fill faculty vacancies. Compounding the situation, many faculty vacancies are due to the fact that professors of pharmacy are retiring (20 percent), a trend that is likely to continue and add to the pharmacy faculty shortage. AACP estimates that 37 percent of current pharmacy professors are 50 or older and 24 percent of the deans at the nation’s colleges and schools of pharmacy are 60 or older.
“The shortage of pharmacy faculty, now and in the future, represents a serious public health threat in the face of the rapidly growing consumer demand for prescription drugs,” said Lucinda Maine, Executive Vice President of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). “We must have a sufficient supply of pharmacists to insure safe and accurate medication distribution, provide essential information on the safe use of medicines, and help patients manage their diseases. AFPE’s campaign can serve as a catalyst for further action by private companies, the federal government, the Congress and the pharmacy community to solve the pharmacist and the faculty shortage.”
Pharmacy Faculty Shortage Likely to Increase Shortfall of Practicing Pharmacists
AACP’s survey documenting the faculty shortage comes at a time when government and private studies confirm a continuing acute shortage of pharmacists in this country. The latest survey by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation found 5,499 vacant chain community pharmacist positions as of January 2003. With retail pharmacies expected to fill 4 billion prescriptions by 2006 – up from 3 billion in 2001 – this shortfall represents a major crisis for the delivery of quality health care in this country.
Of equal concern is a severe shortage of pharmacists working in the nation’s hospitals. A May 2003 survey of pharmacy directors by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists reported a 5.6 percent vacancy rate or approximately 2,800 unfilled hospital pharmacist positions.
“The licensed pharmacist is the health care provider most available to all patients, including the elderly, the uninsured and less advantaged, who rely on medicines to maintain their quality of life,” said Kurt Proctor, President of the NACDS Foundation. “But unless we attract more qualified teachers to the nation’s pharmacy schools, the pharmacist shortage will seriously impact the entire U.S. health care system.”
AFPE Campaign Is First Major Initiative to Attract New Pharmacy Faculty
As the Congress considers new legislation to increase the educational capacity of the nation’s schools of pharmacy, AFPE’s new campaign represents the first private sector program to address the current faculty shortage by increasing the number of students who pursue academic careers in pharmacy. Specifically, the $12 million scholarship program will help AFPE fund up to:
“AFPE’s campaign represents a major private sector effort to address the threat to the public’s access to potentially life-saving pharmacist services caused by the current acute pharmacist shortage and pharmacy faculty shortage. However, it is only part of the solution,” said Bob Bachman, AFPE President. “The joint efforts of AFPE, private companies, the Administration, the Congress, colleges, and the pharmacy community are all needed to recruit the pharmacy teachers who will educate the next generation of pharmacists and therefore, resolve the nation’s pharmacist shortage.”
Funds for AFPE’s new scholarship program already exceed $3.5 million and represent gifts by AFPE board members, major pharmaceutical companies and prominent leaders in pharmacy. Of major significance is a $1 million individual gift from Ernest Mario, Ph.D., former Chairman and CEO of Alza Corporation, former Deputy Chairman and CEO of Glaxo Holdings, and former AFPE Chairman. Other leading donors include: The Burroughs Wellcome Fund; The Merck Company Foundation; Pfizer Inc; Fred N. Echelman, Pharm.D., Chairman and CEO, Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc.; Frederick W. Telling, Vice President, Corporate Policy and Strategic Management, Pfizer Inc; Charles R. Walgreen, Jr., retired Chairman, Walgreen’s Drug Stores; and Joseph D. Williams, retired Chairman and CEO, Warner-Lambert Company.
Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, AFPE was founded in 1942 to advance and support pharmaceutical education in the United States. About 350 pharmacy faculty members and 25 pharmacy school deans are former AFPE fellows.