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April 27, 2005

ULM Pharmacy School Asks for Additional Funding

The University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Pharmacy was recently placed on Cautionary Notice by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). ULM is the home of the only public school of Pharmacy in Louisiana.

The current situation began in the 1990s when the School of Pharmacy, with the support of the Board of Regents and Board of Supervisors, made the difficult transformation from a BS degree in pharmacy to the more advanced PharmD. The move was required by the ACPE to address the growing complexities of the pharmaceutical industry. No longer are pharmacists just dispensing medication. They are now part of the patient care team and expected to have knowledge in health care finance, drug outcomes and evaluation, disease state management and advanced therapeutics. In addition, pharmacists must keep up with the proliferation of new drugs and the associated complex drug interactions. The problem is further exacerbated by an increased demand for pharmacists.

There has been a rapid expansion of schools of pharmacy around the nation. For example, in 1997 there were 75 schools of pharmacy in the United States. Currently, there are 91 Schools of Pharmacy in operation with several more scheduled to open in the next few years. This market pressure places a premium on the limited number of pharmacy faculty. It forces ULM to compete with better funded universities, which provide higher salaries, larger operating budgets and better equipped and more modern facilities. As a result, ULM is having a more difficult time hiring and retaining faculty for the School of Pharmacy.

During site visits over recent years, the ACPE has cited the University for its inability to hire and retain pharmacy faculty as well as inadequate facilities support. As a result of these assessments, the School of Pharmacy was given Cautionary Notice in June of 2004. Unless the program can provide evidence of substantial change, the PharmD program may be placed on probationary accreditation status at the January 2006 ACPE Board Meeting.

In order to compete with peer institutions and to meet the ACPE accreditation requirements, the ULM School of Pharmacy must be able to retain and hire competent faculty and administrators. To do this, and to provide them with the travel, equipment and supplies they need, the School of Pharmacy is requesting an additional $4 million per year. To reach this financial goal, ULM will request $2 million in extra funds this year, $3 million next year, and the recurring $4 million annually starting in 2007. In addition, ULM must provide ACPE with a plan to upgrade the facilities that house the laboratories and classrooms for pharmacy.

ULM currently has a capital outlay proposal for a mix of state and federal funds to construct a $23 million facility. Recently, Dr. James E. Cofer, president of ULM, presented an alternative solution to the Board of Regents. The proposal calls for ULM to purchase the building vacated by State Farm on Bienville Street in Monroe to house the School of Pharmacy. According to Cofer the building would be less than half of the original request for a new Health Science Building and inexpensive to retrofit for the ULM pharmacy program. "But," Cofer cautioned, "We must get both the additional funding and the facility to make this work."

Cofer also said, "Our peer institutions are funded at $12 million annually. With our current funding at $6 million, we lag behind other schools of pharmacy."

Dr. Lamar Pritchard, the Dean for the College of Health Sciences, is working with Cofer and others to correct this situation. Unfortunately, the annual number of incoming pharmacy students will need to be reduced from 100 to 75 (1998 admission level). The measure also includes increasing the tuition for students enrolled in the pharmacy program.

"Even with the financial problems as serious as they are we still have a 100% passage rate and our students continually score 10% higher than students at peer institutions," said Pritchard.

Further action by ACPE such as probation would further compound the difficulty of recruiting faculty and likely result in the loss of accreditation by ACPE. 'This is a situation that we take very seriously," Cofer said.

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