School of Pharmacy to open second satellite campus at U.Va.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
By: Cynthia McMullen

The School of Pharmacy will open a new satellite location this fall at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. It will be the school’s second regional pharmacy-education division.

In anticipation of its agreement with U.Va., the School of Pharmacy admitted 10 additional students to its incoming doctor of pharmacy class in 2010 and 2011.

Ten students from each of those classes will have the opportunity to spend their third and fourth years at the new U.Va. campus after completing their first two years at the school’s Medical College of Virginia Campus in Richmond.

“We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with U.Va. and its medical center,” said School of Pharmacy Dean Victor Yanchick.

R. Edward Howell, vice president and chief executive officer of U.Va. Medical Center, said, “We are pleased we can collaborate with the VCU School of Pharmacy and use our shared commitment to education to improve training for the next generation of pharmacists, who play a critical role in the care of so many of our patients.”

The program aligns with the 2011 Virginia Higher Education Act, known as the Top Jobs Act, an initiative of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and the Virginia Business Higher Education Council. The legislation calls for the awarding of 100,000 more degrees to Virginians, especially in science, technology and health. Toward that end, the act also calls on colleges and universities to collaborate and share educational resources.

The idea for an additional pharmacy satellite campus was conceived about two years ago. The agreement signed by both universities notes that there is a shortage of pharmacists, including health system-based pharmacists, in Central Virginia and surrounding areas. It states that the establishment of professional and postgraduate pharmacy education programs in Charlottesville is likely to alleviate such shortages.

Sheldon Retchin, VCU vice president for health sciences and VCU Health System CEO, said the new U.Va. campus is “another example of our efforts to ensure that the Commonwealth’s health professional needs are met in every corner of the state.”

VCU’s Yanchick credits U.Va. Health System’s former director of pharmacy, Gary Johnson, for bringing the proposal to the forefront. “That’s when it really started to gel. The clinical services provided for patient care by the department are exceptional.

“We have been sending students to the University of Virginia for their fourth-year rotations, but this will be a more unique, complete experience that will benefit both U.Va. and our students.” Students on the new campus, Yanchick said, will use U.Va. Medical Center facilities as well as “other quality experiential locations, such as Martha Jefferson Hospital.”

When Johnson left U.Va. last summer to assume the position of enterprise director of pharmacy services and chief pharmacy officer for UK Healthcare, Rafael Saenz stepped up as interim director of pharmacy.

“U.Va. has a lot to offer in the clinical realm,” said Saenz, who is also director of acute care pharmacy services for U.Va. and a 2003 VCU School of Pharmacy alumnus. “It’s an exciting time for us.” The process, he said, has followed a “top-down philosophy” of collaboration since the beginning, incorporating administrators and faculty at all levels.

Distance-learning technologies for the Charlottesville campus are being planned and implemented; in addition to taking classes from on-site faculty, students will learn via videoconferencing from classes on the MCV Campus.

The School of Pharmacy’s Inova Fairfax Campus, which was established in 2007, now enrolls a total of about 35 third- and fourth-year students annually. In addition to VCU, three Virginia universities have schools or colleges of pharmacy: Hampton University, Shenandoah University in Winchester and University of Appalachia in Oakwood.