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Thursday, March 24, 2016

A New Curriculum -- Change Is In The Air!

(If you are a regular reader of this blog, over the next several years you're going to hear a LOT about our new PharmD curriculum. It's pretty exciting so we plan to share information with you on a very regular basis. For those applying in Fall 2017 -- for entry in 2018 -- this is particularly important as you'll see below. Dr. Tina Brock, a key player in this transition, agreed to a Q&A as a way to introduce prospective students to the new curriculum and the motivation behind the transition.)

Is it true that UCSF is changing its PharmD curriculum?

Yep!  It’s true. The Pathways Curriculum, which we launched 10 years before the first generation iPhone, has served us well for many years.  But, like mobile phones, health care and education have gone through many changes since that time.  We want to be responsive to the new healthcare environment and also to the feedback our stakeholders have provided for how best to educate the 21st century pharmacist.  So we’re designing a new curriculum.

Change is in the air! Why now?
San Francisco is a city known for change. And we think the time is ripe for what we’re doing with our PharmD program. The new curriculum allows us to take advantage of opportunities available between different fields of science, between different health professionals, between patients and communities, and between foundational training (the PharmD degree) and advanced training (like residencies, fellowships, masters and PhD degree programs and certifications, such as pharmacotherapy specialties).

But why would an already strong PharmD program like UCSF need to change?  Is something wrong?
The current PharmD program at UCSF is very strong, but the truth is, health care isn’t as good as it can be.  And we take seriously our responsibility to make it better.  We believe that every person deserves access to quality medicines and healthcare services. To achieve this goal, new models in education, practice, and research are necessary.  And where better to create, test, evaluate, and share these new models than a health sciences campus with a legacy of achievement like UCSF?  Something would be wrong if we didn’t change.

I’m intrigued… what are some of the key features of the new curriculum?
When we started this, Dean Joe Guglielmo challenged us to work “from a blank canvas.” (You can see more of his thoughts about that in this post.)  Instead of making our first generation iPhone better, we’re leapfrogging to the 6S Plus!

Some of the features we’re most excited about include:
  • Didactic courses organized as integrated systems blocks across multiple scientific disciplines
  • Synthesis weeks to integrate concepts between the blocks
  • A seminar series focused on cutting edge frontiers of science and practice of therapeutics
  • Authentic interprofessional activities embedded throughout the didactic and experiential courses
  • A depth project introducing background knowledge in a focused area, leading to the design and executive of an implementation project
I heard that the UCSF PharmD program will now be 3 years.  I know there are other 3-year PharmD programs out there, but that sounds crazy -- why would UCSF do that?
The vision for the new curriculum is 12 quarters over 3 calendar years.  It’s essentially the same number of quarters, but don’t worry, it’s definitely not our current curriculum squeezed into one fewer year. That would be crazy!

Our faculty, alumni, and student stakeholders created vision for what a UCSF PharmD graduate should be.  We researched changes in pharmacy’s national accreditation standards and professional guidance as well as new roles for all health professionals.  In the state of California, there have also been some exciting opportunities.  SB 493 has expanded the scope of pharmacist practice and created a new Advanced Practice Pharmacist recognition.  In addition, the California State Board of Pharmacy is no longer requiring intern hours in excess of those earned as part of the curriculum.  These opportunities provided a chance to realign our academic calendar.

We also know that while our fees are among the lowest in the state of California, the cost of living in San Francisco is a challenge for many.  To enable us to continue recruiting the most talented and diverse pharmacy students, we wanted to ensure that we make every moment you spend with us count.  By accelerating the trajectory from the classroom to the clinical setting and developing enhanced opportunities for specialty training, we feel that the 3-year program will offer great value.  And, of course, there will be strategically placed breaks for rest and rejuvenation!

When will these changes take place?
We anticipate that students admitted into our program to begin in Summer 2018 will be enrolled completely in the new curriculum.

But the transition from our current pathways-model to the new curriculum has already started!  We’ve been piloting new courses and teaching methods towards this goal since June 2014.  One example is our Clinical Microsystems Clerkship which partners pharmacy students with medical students to address systems challenges in clinical settings like the UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

As we gather evidence about the successes, we’re committed to bringing these innovations into the program as quickly as possible.  This gives our current students the opportunity to benefit from the new model, too.

Ok, so what’s the downside to all this?
Our target is to train future pharmacists to be therapeutics experts; problem-solvers who can tolerate the ambiguities of real world challenges, who demonstrate self-directed, lifelong learning skills, and who are prepared to lead the charge towards patient-centered quality improvement across the

But as in all areas of life, some people will find this change to be exhilarating while others will find it to be uncomfortable.  Individuals who are open-minded, flexible, and have strong team skills will be more likely to thrive in this environment. We understand that we may lose applications from good students who prefer a more traditional route.

Also, although we’re using strong scientific evidence and expert opinion to guide the development of the new pharmacy curriculum, it’s unlikely we’ll get everything right the first time.  This may be irritating or frustrating to some.  Students interested in gaining expertise in continuous quality improvement models, may find this to be an amazing opportunity, however.  We are looking for pioneers who are ready to embrace change!

How can I get more information about the new curriculum? Please check out the PharmD Curriculum Transformation Project website.  Rest assured, we’ve had students involved with this project since the very beginning and this will continue for some time.  We want to make certain you have the information you need to determine if UCSF is a good fit for your professional and personal goals.

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