This fall, 28 students are the first to embark on a five-year pharmaceutical degree program being offered on the MU campus in conjunction with the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s College of Pharmacy.
The new satellite degree program allows students to stay in the Columbia area and at the same time take courses UMKC requires for its students majoring in pharmacy.
In the end, they will get a degree from UMKC — and, the program’s leaders hope, replenish the number of pharmacists in mid-Missouri.
A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that pharmacists make up the third- largest group of health professionals but that there has been a nationwide decline in the number of available pharmacists, as well as problems hiring and retaining full-time workers.
Missouri’s pharmacy workforce is down 35 percent from what it needs to be, said Mary Euler, assistant dean of the School of Pharmacy at UMKC.
“Missouri is one of the states that has the highest shortage, but in Kansas City, we’re at capacity. We found the rural areas of mid-Missouri need attention,” Euler said. “We wanted to educate citizens of mid-Missouri and keep them in mid-Missouri, so there would be an increased pool of people to hire.”
Euler predicts the nationwide shortage will take a decade to repair. “We’re trying very hard to fill the void for our state,” she said.
The new program allows students to do all of the course work through MU, in one way or another.
“The courses specific to the pharmacy degree, for example lectures available only through UMKC, are taken over the Internet using distance-education technology,” Euler said.
Kathleen Snella, the newly appointed assistant dean for the MU campus satellite program, confirmed that vacancies for pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians are most extreme throughout the center of the state. She said she was eager to take on her new role.
“Students will be taking required courses like other degree programs in the health professions, like organic chemistry, biology, anatomy,” Snella said. “And they can take an introduction to pharmacy course and pharmacy law in the first semester.”
She teaches as well as serves as faculty adviser for students in the sequence and remains a mediator between the two campuses, coordinating and synchronizing the program at MU. Snella, who relocated from Texas for the new position, was a pharmacist at University Pharmacy 15 years ago.
Eight more employees will be hired for the MU arm of the program.
In developing it, Euler worked closely with members of the MU School of Health Professions, including Associate Dean Kevin Rudeen.
“We initially just started talking about how we could expand the program to meet needs in Missouri,” Rudeen said. “We wanted to make a way to increase the number of educated, trained and available pharmacists for the workforce.”
MU student Jordan Hinkle of Jackson said she planned to apply to UMKC but saw the option to select the new program on the application.
“I was interested in going to any pharmacy school, but I liked that here it’s a little closer to home,” Hinkle said. “It was neat to be part of the first class — I figured it would get a lot of support from the school.”
Rudeen said one of the benefits for students is they get to stay on the MU campus and use its facilities, “which just may be more accommodating to a student’s needs. And it’s not costing taxpayers any more money.”