Middle Tennessee’s first pharmacy school set to graduate first class Saturday

By Kim Chaudoin on 5/3/2012

  
  

Largest and first pharmacy class of 71 students is university’s first doctoral degrees conferred

Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy will set a historic milestone for the university Saturday, May 5, when it awards doctoral degrees for the first time in the institution’s history. The pharmacy graduates will receive the first doctorate degrees awarded at Lipscomb University at spring commencement held at 3 p.m. in Allen Arena.

Lipscomb’s program, the first pharmacy college established in Middle Tennessee, will graduate the largest pharmacy class in Nashville with 71 Pharm.D. graduates. The Lipscomb College of Pharmacy was founded in 2006 and the first class enrolled in 2008. The college has distinguished itself among most pharmacy programs by its faith-based approach to pharmacy education.

Tennessee was served by only one pharmacy college for decades until five new colleges, including Lipscomb’s, were established between 2005 and 2012. This May, Lipscomb and two other of Tennessee’s pharmacy colleges will be graduating their first pharmacists into a statewide job market that has among the highest demand for pharmacists in the nation.

“We are very pleased with the progress the college has made as we have populated and built it over the last four years. This is a bittersweet time as we are excited to graduate our first class of students, but we will also miss seeing them. We’ve been able to create a real home here for them. It’s exciting to see people whom you have invested in and have helped build a career ready to go out and practice their skills. We are extremely excited about what we’ve accomplished,” said Roger Davis, dean of the College of Pharmacy.

The Lipscomb pharmacy graduates come from 15 states and one foreign nation. Twenty-two are from the Middle Tennessee area. Sixteen graduates will be heading into professional residency programs across the nation.

Graduating the college’s first class is the next milestone in achieving full accreditation process by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). The college has been awarded candidate status by ACPE and has recently undergone its final accreditation site visit. Accreditation status will be announced June 25 and will be retroactive to this graduating class.

May commencement also marks the first time Lipscomb University will award doctoral degrees in its 120-year history.

“This marks a tremendous milestone for the university as it awards its first doctoral degrees. Over the past few years, Lipscomb has grown and expanded and this reflects the university that we have now become. I am particularly pleased that our first doctorates are in pharmacy and the upcoming fields of education and ministry, which are all service-oriented. This fits well with our spiritual heritage and our ongoing mission to serve the community’s needs,” said W. Craig Bledsoe, Lipscomb University provost.

Lipscomb’s journey toward establishing a college of pharmacy began with a faculty-generated proposal to study the possibility. The founding of the program was approved in November 2006 by the Lipscomb board of trustees after months of research and feasibility studies. Board members and administrators determined that a pharmacy college at Lipscomb would be a positive step in addressing the growing need for highly qualified pharmacists throughout the nation. Due in part to a rapidly aging population demanding more health care services, the need for pharmacists across the nation has remained high.

The Lipscomb pharmacy program is continuing to grow with work toward graduate programs in pharmaceutical sciences, a pharmacy research building expected to be completed by fall 2013, development of residency programs and a new university health services facility to be constructed soon.

Davis said he is pleased with the way the college has grown and developed in its four years of existence.

“We’ve been able to create a community — a community for learning and skill development that really is exceptional in terms of its focus and content. This community is first of all about Christian education, and it’s about the mutual supportive nature that our faculty and staff give to our students. Our success is that we’ve created a very holistic pharmacy practitioner who has a good sense of value, of service and appreciation for the knowledge and skills they’ve been blessed with,” said Davis.

Students say Lipscomb’s rigorous program has helped prepare them not only to practice their profession but also to care for others.

“I had a great experience the last four years. I have been consistently challenged, but also strongly encouraged. I feel very prepared and excited to begin my career as a pharmacist,” said Allie Griffin, of Polkton, N.C., who will go to work for CVS in Winston-Salem, N.C., following Saturday’s graduation. “The most important thing I learned is to always practice pharmacy compassionately no matter what setting I am in.”

John Deason, of Nolensville, Tenn., said the encouragement from faculty and staff was a hallmark of his experience at Lipscomb.

“This is an excellent program. I really appreciate the personal time and attention I received from the faculty and staff. I never once felt like just another number,” he said.

“I am really excited to be in the first class from the College of Pharmacy. The past four years have been filled with great opportunities and learning experiences.  We have been very fortunate as a class to be able to help create a lot of new programs and give our insight into the future of the college.  I have grown personally, academically, and, most importantly, spiritually. It has been a very rewarding experience to learn the how to take care of patients as a pharmacist in such a nurturing environment,” said Brittany Latimer, of Charlotte, N.C.

Latimer, who will begin a residency with Express Scripts in Franklin Lakes, N.J., after graduation, said it has been a great experience to be a part of establishing the College of Pharmacy.

“Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy began with a vision of creating the first pharmacy school in Middle Tennessee. Witnessing first-hand that vision become a reality has shown me the importance of being a trailblazer,” she said. “In life you have to have the determination to create your own opportunities instead of expecting things to come to you. The inaugural class has chartered new organizations, established new traditions and created programs that will carry on for those classes following in our footsteps.”

Kayleen Daly, of Marietta, Ga., will be working at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.Ca. following graduation. She said the program has "helped me grow and become not only a better health care professional, but also a better person."

The next step for the soon-to-be Pharm.D. graduates is to sit for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). It is one component of the licensure process and is used by the boards of pharmacy as part of their assessment of a candidate’s competence to practice as a pharmacist.