With a growing shortage of pharmacists straining Kansas’ health care system, the University of Kansas earlier this year proposed an expansion of its pharmacy school—the only one in the state.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and legislators embraced this effort. On June 23, pharmacists, legislators and KU students and teachers joined Sebelius at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita as she ceremonially signed the bill making the expansion possible.
“Pharmacists are an important part of the health care system, but there are too many communities in Kansas where people have to drive to the next county to see one,” said Sebelius.
“That’s very hard on seniors and people with limited mobility, not to mention making it that much harder to recruit new families and businesses to the community.”
At last count, seven Kansas counties have no pharmacy, and 30 have only one.
“Expanding KU’s School of Pharmacy here in Wichita and in Lawrence will make it so we can start to fill this gap, which will help Kansans live healthier lives and be an economic benefit to the state,” Sebelius said.
The expansion will nearly double the number of students admitted each year from 105 to 190. Of that number, as many as 40 students could be enrolled per year at a new satellite program at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
“Right now we turn away many qualified applicants simply because we don’t have the room to teach them,” said Ken Audus, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Those are all students who then go out of state for school, but who we’ll soon be able to keep here in Kansas as a result of this expansion.”
“We’re eager to get started on the Wichita expansion and welcome pharmacy students alongside our medical and master’s in public health students,” said S. Edwards Dismuke, dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita. “It all feeds into our mission to improve the health of Kansans.”
With so many ailments and conditions being treated by pharmaceuticals, the importance of pharmacists is greater than ever in treating cancer, said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center and executive dean of the School of Medicine.
“One of our biggest assets as we seek National Cancer Institute designation for our cancer center is our ability to partner with KU School of Pharmacy faculty and students to discover and develop new cancer drugs,” said Atkinson. “Expanding our ability to train the very best pharmacists in the nation is a huge benefit to the medical center and our efforts to fight cancer.”
Creating a satellite program in Wichita will allow KU to build on the medical education taking place there already, said KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere.
“KU works for the entire state of Kansas, which is why we have a significant amount of medical education taking place in Wichita,” said Lariviere. “The addition of a pharmacy program in Wichita will further enhance KU’s commitment to helping meet the health care needs of Kansans statewide. For example, the satellite operation in Wichita will be a great launching pad for our externship programs that place pharmacy students throughout the state, including in western Kansas.”
The construction of an additional floor at the School of Medicine-Wichita and a new building on the Lawrence campus will be financed with roughly $50 million in state bonds and an additional $10 million to be raised by KU Endowment from private sources. The bonds are designated to be paid off with revenue from expanded gaming, with construction at both locations expected to be completed in 2010. All operating expenses will be funded by KU.
KU’s doctor of pharmacy degree, or PharmD, is a six-year professional-level degree similar to a law or medical degree. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools 2007” ranked KU’s PharmD program 18th in the nation. This year KU’s School of Pharmacy is ranked first among the nation’s pharmacy schools in percentage of faculty who receive research funding from the National Institutes of Health.
Additionally, a recent study showed that every dollar a state invests in its school of pharmacy can result in a more than $27 return in economic growth and increased revenue.