By BECKY GILLETTE
A groundbreaking is planned soon for a school of pharmacy at William Carey University Tradition campus, which will bring pharmacy education closer to residents of South Mississippi while helping meet a shortage of pharmacists in rural areas of the region.
Dr. Michael Malloy, who has been named dean of the new pharmacy school, said the closest pharmacy school to the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a branch campus of Auburn University in Mobile, which doesn’t have a full complement of faculty so it uses a lot of distance education. The next closest one is Xavier School of Pharmacy in New Orleans.
WCU is planning an accelerated school of pharmacy where students will go year-round. The total length of the program is two years and 10 months. Most pharmacy schools take four years to complete.
The school scheduled to open in July 2018 is anticipated to serve the area from Mobile to New Orleans and up to Hattiesburg. Malloy said the accelerated program has the benefit of graduating pharmacists sooner to help meet shortages for pharmacists in the region.
WCU President Tommy King said this is another step in the university’s mission is to prepare individuals to work in underserved areas of the Gulf South and the nation.
“William Carey University has made great strides in filling unmet needs in the health-care field,” King said.
The college is well on its way to raising the initial $4 million in start-up costs for the proposed school. King said more than $3.4 million has been raised to date, including a $1 million gift from Joe F. Sanderson Jr. and his wife Kathy, as well as major gifts from Joe Canizaro, Trehern Charitable Foundation, Mississippi Power Co., Leo Seal Foundation, John “Shorty” Sneed, Chevron, Coast Electric Power Association and Merit Health Biloxi.
“We appreciate their generosity as we work together to improve the health and wellness of the people of Mississippi,” King said.
The project will cost an estimated $12 to $15 million to build, equip and furnish the pharmacy school and an academic building.
Malloy said it isn’t often you get the opportunity to open a brand new school of pharmacy.
“It is exciting and challenging at the same time,” Mallow said. “You have to design a building from scratch, hire faculty and staff from scratch, and at the same time create interest from potential applicants.”
Malloy said WCU will be offering a personalized experience for education as a pharmacist.
“They will have the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations on a daily basis, if needed, with the dean and his leadership team, faculty and staff,” Malloy said. “They will also have the support and the benefit of interactions with other students and programs on the Tradition campus that are located here.”
Malloy was involved once before in launching a pharmacy school. In 2000, he was founding chairman for the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the School of Pharmacy Worcester-Manchester for Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. But this is the first time he has been dean for a new pharmacy school.
They have yet to begin to take applications from prospective students, but are finding a lot of interest.
Right now WCU is in the beginning of its accreditation process, a document that Malloy said will be 180 to 200 pages long. The final application to the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education is due April 21.
“This is a great, can’t-miss opportunity for the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Malloy said. “Hopefully, we will become one of the premier schools of pharmacy in the nation. There is plenty of interest and plenty of resources. It is just a matter of getting it done. It is very exciting. You don’t get this opportunity too often.”
WCU has moved ahead to hire the leadership team for the pharmacy which includes Associate Dean of Pharmacy and Assessment Dr. David Welbon, Associate Dean of Curriculum and New Programs Dr. Charles Dreese, Chair of Pharmaceutical Science Dr. Kristopher Virga and Chair of Pharmacy Practice and Administrative Sciences Dr. Donna Adkins.
The school Malloy worked at previously was also an accelerated school of pharmacy.
“We found at my previous school the average age of students was between 24 and 25 years old,” Malloy said. “There are a large number of our students who will already have a four-year degree. There will be students who are starting a second career. I have a couple of police officers who have come in and said they would like to apply. It is not just people in the sciences, but people who have diverse backgrounds who are looking for a career change. A number of students from the Mississippi Gulf Coast College system who have shown interest. We’ve had several calls from students from Mississippi State.”
The class size is going to be 64.
Malloy said the WCU did a feasibility study before embarking on the path to create a pharmacy school, with both big chains and small independent pharmacies reported having a hard time finding enough pharmacists to hire. Demand could increase in the future as baby boomer pharmacists near retirement age.
“So, the need is there,” Malloy said. “Another thing that makes this school attractive is the people on the Gulf Coast will have something to choose from where they don’t have to travel long distances or commute to go to school. The university’s feasibility study fund potential applicants thought that was a plus.”
Malloy said the school represents an opportunity to improve the healthcare for the citizens in South Mississippi. And more growth is expected soon in the area that has been named a Mississippi Health Care Industry Zone by the Mississippi Legislature.
“We are going to be part of this health care zone,” Malloy said. “The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is moving their nursing program to Tradition. It is well under construction across from our pharmacy school. Memorial Hospital in Gulfport already is constructing a family health clinic there. Coastal Family Health is going to move their main administrative offices out to this healthcare zone. Being part of a healthcare zone with all this new growth has the potential for creating opportunity for new businesses to service all the faculty and students who are going to be out in this area.”
Malloy said he is also excited about plans by Cleveland Clinic to building a 100,000-sqaure-foot research facility in the health-care zone that will house the National Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute.
“What we are trying to create is a medical city,” Malloy said.