CU Pharmacy’s international program gains global recognition

Over 25 years ago, the Distance Degrees and Programs (DDP) office at CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences transformed the way students access higher education in healthcare with its groundbreaking North American Trained PharmD program. Recently the DDP office was recognized for its work when it was awarded the Global Education SIG 2022 Outstanding Program Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) for its International Trained PharmD Pathway. The award recognizes an established program or unit within a school or college of pharmacy for outstanding work and implications for global learning.

Around the world, COVID-19 has put pharmacists in the spotlight with the ability to immunize, prescribe and help patients without having to see a GP. In the nearly 10 years since its inception, the international PharmD program has set a precedent for other schools to follow in their commitment to education exchange.

“Winning is partly due to our goal of advancing the profession globally and how effective we have been in recruiting students and growing their practice globally,” said Dr. Shaun Gleason, PharmD, Assistant Dean for Distance Degrees and Programs.

Each year the incoming international PharmD class varies from 3 to 12 students. The incoming class this year is the most diverse; eight students from nine different countries, with one student splitting time between two countries.

ITPD white coat 1st

Members of the Fall 22 ITPD incoming class at their white coat ceremony.

“It’s really common,” explained Dr. Gleason. “Many of our students have dual citizenship. A great example is an alumna from Egypt who also practices in Qatar so both countries see the benefit of her work.”

Lisa Grunemeyer, from the Philippines, is part of this fall’s diverse incoming class. She chose CU’s international PharmD program because she heard firsthand from alumni that it is an excellent program.

“Other colleagues of mine from the hospital also gave it good reviews and I wanted to see it for myself,” she explained. “As a foreign pharmacist, I know it’s different than the health care system in the United States and I want to learn here and apply it to my own country.”

blubber hoang, from Vietnam, is currently working as a clinical pharmacist and would like to further his studies to PhD while practicing in his home country.

Their reasons for pursuing a PhD vary, but all of these students open doors and pave a way to make health care more accessible to all.

Built for global success

shaun-gleason

dr Shaun Gleason, PharmD

The Office of Distance Degrees and Programs consists of two main divisions; the North American Trained PharmD program, which is for individuals who are licensed to practice pharmacy (also known as an RPh) in the United States but require a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree; and the International-Trained PharmD program for individuals who practice pharmacy in another country, typically with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, but wish to both obtain a PharmD and expand the field of pharmacy in their own country. The office also works with other programs in the school and across the Anschutz Medical campus to offer distance-based Certificates of Completion and MS degrees in Cannabis Science and Medicine and Palliative Care.

All coursework in the distance learning programs is structured online, apart from a few face-to-face meetings that are programme-specific. While many schools made last-minute pivots during the COVID-19 emergency, the original North American PharmD program has been educating students for over 25 years and the international PharmD program since 2014.

Many students take their knowledge and share it the next day in their offices or, with the advent of technology, via video conferencing.

“Today, we have an increasing number of students receiving residencies upon graduation that allow them to take the practice to an even higher level in their local areas. We also have students and alumni who make connections in the clinical, academic and advocacy fields and advance our profession in so many ways; it takes my breath away,” said Dr. Gleason.

Opening doors for international education

dr Gleason recalls the moment CU Pharmacy decided to enter the waters of online international education.

“The North American program has been very successful since 1998 and we got a lot of interest from international pharmacists, but we didn’t have an opportunity for them to join us,” she recalls. “We went to a conference in 2011, talked about the existing North American program and learned about international programs on campus,” said Dr. Gleason. “So I asked Dean Altiere, [CU Pharmacy Dean]’Why can’t we do our online program for the world?’”

Dean Altiere thought Dr. Gleason is onto something. Then and still now there is a big movement for other countries to have a PharmD and not just a bachelor’s degree or RPh (registered pharmacist degree) to expand the pharmacist profession.

“Today, we have an increasing number of students receiving residencies upon graduation that allow them to take the practice to an even higher level in their local areas. We also have students and alumni who make connections in the clinical, academic and advocacy fields and advance our profession in so many ways; it takes my breath away,” said Dr. Gleason.

“It (the international degree) was specifically designed to meet professional needs and guide the profession towards patient-centered care in the students’ local areas,” said Dr. Gleason.

The first international PharmD class started in July 2014 with three students from the same country.

“It was amazing that we got three,” she said, “because we got accredited in January 2014 and thought there was no way we would have a course by the July start date.”

All three students came out Qatar, and they were already practicing pharmacists and leaders in their field – they just didn’t have a Ph.D. in pharmacy and were looking for more. They were exactly the students the program needed for its inaugural class.

“Years later I was in Qatar for a conference and one of our alumni from that first course organized the entire conference,” shared Dr. Gleason with. “The US Accreditation Body was there and worked with them, so I could see firsthand how CU’s international program was advancing the profession in Qatar.”

Advancing the profession, building and nurturing global relationships, while developing alumni into mentors, are just a few of the reasons why CU’s international PharmD program is recognized as the best-established global pharmacy program in the world.

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