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Becoming a Pharmacist: Professional Pharmacy Education

A complete description of all undergraduate and professional education programs offered by the Purdue University College of Pharmacy are located elsewhere.

The professional pharmacy program at Purdue

In 1992 all the colleges of Pharmacy in the United States voted to make the Doctorate of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) the only professional Pharmacy degree, and to phase out the five-year Bachelors of Science in Pharmacy as a professional degree. At Purdue, the transition is nearing completion and the last students have been accepted into the BS in Pharmacy program. After 2000, students will be accepted only into the four-year professional curriculum leading to a Pharm.D. Since this program traditionally follows two years of Pre-Pharmacy education, students typically take six years of post-secondary education to obtain their Pharm.D.

Professional Curriculum

Pharmacy is a demanding curriculum, but there still is time to make friends and build relationships that will last a lifetime!

The professional pharmacy curriculum is designed to produce pharmacists who have the abilities and skills which are necessary to achieve outcomes related to:

  • Providing pharmaceutical care to patients
  • Developing and managing medication distribution and control systems
  • Managing the pharmacy
  • Promoting public health
  • Providing drug information and education

In order to provide students with the opportunity to develop a strong foundation on which to build these skills, the curriculum emphasizes six major areas of instruction.

Pharmaceutical chemistry emphasizes the application of chemical sciences to pharmacy. Some of the courses deal with chemicals used as medicines - their use, nature, preparation and preservation. In other courses, attention is given to the processes and tests used to determine the purity and strength of a chemical or its pharmaceutical form. The pharmacy student learns, for example, how to find out if aspirin is pure, or how to determine how much vitamin C is contained in a particular solution or tablet.

Pharmacognosy deals with the nature and sources of "natural drugs" - those obtained from plants or animals, either directly or indirectly. For example, with a drug such as quinine, this study involves the source, the commercial production, the marketing, the chief pure chemicals contained in the drug, and the uses made of the drug and its derivatives.

Pharmacology is concerned with understanding the action of drugs in the body. Attention is given to the effects of various doses of each medicinal substance and to the different ways in which medicine can be introduced into the body. The effects of poisons and the means to overcome them are studied in toxicology. Generally, animal tests are required to learn the strength of drugs. Physicians know a great deal about pharmacology and toxicology; yet, as the expert about drugs, the pharmacist must maintain this knowledge to an even greater extent.

Education in modern business management is important for graduates who plan to enter community pharmacy and some institution practices. This area is commonly designated pharmacy administration. Instruction frequently includes principles of basic economics, accounting, management, computer applications, marketing, merchandising, and legal phases of the profession of pharmacy. Courses in pharmacy administration are especially helpful to pharmacists who become executives in pharmacies, hospitals, service wholesale houses, or manufacturing.

All colleges of pharmacy offer a variety of courses in pharmacy practice. These courses are designed to give an appreciation of the background and nature of the profession, to familiarize students with the many skilled processes used in pharmacy, to introduce the various forms of medicines, and to teach them how to dispense medication accurately and skillfully. Instruction in pharmacy practice again emphasizes the fact that pharmacy blends science and technology, and that throughout the professional services of the pharmacist there is a continuous responsibility both to the patient and the physician. Instruction in the pharmaceutical sciences and in the professional areas (except for most of the administration courses) includes some laboratory work. This laboratory work is both traditional and clinical. Laboratory instruction explores various scientific phenomena, as well as studies the clinical application of the principles of pharmaceutical sciences. Pharmacy practice is that area within the pharmacy curriculum which deals with patient care, placing an emphasis on drug therapy. Pharmacy practice seeks to develop a patient-oriented attitude in the student. The education of pharmacists who are able to meet the needs of society can be attained only through a careful blending of theoretical course work and clinical experiences.

The clinical component of the pharmacy curriculum varies from school to school, however, the basic objectives are the same. Some of these objectives are

  • to develop students' communication skills for effective interaction with patients and with practitioners of other health professions,
  • to help students develop a patient awareness in the practice of pharmacy
  • to enable students to integrate the knowledge acquired in course work prior to clinical exposure, and to apply it to the solution of real problems, and
  • to develop students' awareness of their responsibility for monitoring the drugs taken by patients.
  • to help students become more aware of the general methods of diagnosis and patient care specifically related to drug therapy

†Excerpted from a booklet entitled "Shall I study Pharmacy?" published by the American Association of the Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

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