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Interview with AIM Member Dean Dr. James Kehrer

18 February 2011
Interview with AIM Member Dean Dr. James Kehrer

On February 9th, FIP  interviewed Dr. James Kehrer, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. 

In addition to the current undergraduate and graduate student programs, the faculty is set to offer a new doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) program beginning in September 2012 (pending provincial government approval).  While there are a few schools offering PharmD programs in other parts of Canada, the proposed U of A model is distinct in its role and structure.  The post-BSc program will be 14 months in duration and involve a combination of classroom and practice-based learning in either team-based, community/ambulatory or acute-care environments.  As the program is post-BSc, it will be more extensive than an entry-level PharmD program and is a logical extension of the bachelor program.

The PharmD program will provide graduates with a “full scope” of practice that will allow them to take full advantage of their professional abilities as a health-care provider, which, in Alberta, includes prescribing authority and the administration of vaccines.  Not only will the comfort and confidence level of pharmacists increase in these direct patient care areas, but pharmacists will also receive recognition for these additional roles.  Over the years, pharmacy education has been increasing in depth and scope with continual additions and revisions to the curriculum.  The academic rigor has increased for pharmacy students and the Doctor of Pharmacy degree will appropriately recognize the skills and accomplishments of graduating students. 

The new program reflects the transition to a patient-care focus.  As in other countries and jurisdictions, dispensing activities are becoming a very small part of the pharmacist’s job in Alberta, where these roles are increasingly being taken on by pharmacy technicians.  In Alberta, pharmacists generally work in three main areas: community pharmacy, primary care networks and hospital pharmacy, the latter of which has traditionally taken the lead in the area of direct patient care.  Other benefits to graduating students include eligibility for residency programs in the United States (where PharmD programs have been entry-level since 2000) and a wider range of opportunities for advanced training.  While the Bachelor of Science degree will remain the standard for entry-to-practice in Canada at this time (with the exception of Quebec), the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada and the Association of Deans of Pharmacy of Canada have set a goal of transitioning to the PharmD as the standard entry-to-practice qualification for pharmacists in Canada by the year 2020. 

One question that arose in the discussion with Dr. Kehrer was the effect the new program will have on currently practicing pharmacists holding a Bachelor of Science.  Dr. Kehrer assured that there is no apprehension; in fact the response has been quite the opposite- practicing pharmacists are excited about the new program.  The first cohort of the PharmD program will be comprised of 13 recent graduates who choose to continue directly with the new program; however admission will open to more seasoned pharmaceutical practitioners following the inaugural year.

As the establishment of a PharmD program is on the horizon in many faculties, if not in progress already, we asked Dr. Kehrer if he had any words of advice for other institutions.  He explained that U of A is starting with smaller numbers and will gradually ramp-up the program as it progresses and as they are able to acquire more preceptors.  He also suggests working with the government in establishing the program, getting faculty support and consulting with students at every step of the way.

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