Richard A. Jackson, Ph.D.
Mercer University's ownership program is one of the best established and most successful in generating student interest in pharmacy ownership. In the Spring 2003 semester, eighty-four students registered for their elective "Community Pharmacy Ownership." Anecdotally, Mercer's program receives very high marks from community pharmacy professionals familiar with the university's history.
Mercer requires all students to take a four-semester course in pharmacy management. A significant portion of the course involves community pharmacy. In addition, all students are required to take an Advanced Community Pharmacy rotation in their 4th year.
Prof. Richard Jackson has taught the highly popular, two-semester (30 contact hour) Community Pharmacy Ownership course for over 20 years. For the past three years, Mercer has awarded a certificate in Community Pharmacy Ownership and Management to students who have taken the ownership elective. The certificate program is operated in conjunction with NCPA.
When asked to describe what drives Mercer's program, Prof. Jackson listed three factors: a faculty with ownership experience, support from Dean Hewitt Matthews, and continuing relationships with ownership organizations outside of the university.
"Several faculty have been involved in community pharmacy ownership themselves," said Jackson. "In addition, the faculty have had a close working relationship with NCPA as well as the state association." (Jackson has been recognized by NCPA for excellence in teaching pharmacy administration.) "The administration of the school has been sensitive to the need for emphasis in community pharmacy ownership. The Dean recently received the American College of Apothecaries Dean's award. Barriers to implementation of the program included a limited amount of time and space in the curriculum."
There is a perception among some independent pharmacy owners that the schools of pharmacy neglect to promote this segment of the profession. Prof. Jackson disagrees. "Unfortunately, some schools do not have faculty with an interest in community pharmacy and entrepreneurship in particular," he said. "There is also the problem of research funding which is such an important part of academia. It is not a matter of working in the retail setting that is discouraged; it may be that it is not encouraged. There is the mistaken impression among some that there are no opportunities for the practice of clinical skills, when ironically, the greatest opportunities lie in the community setting. To a certain extent, many feel that the application of clinical skills may be limited by workload considerations in the community setting."
Jackson told us that many students do not hear enough about the excellent quality of life enjoyed by a number of pharmacy owners. "There are significant rewards, financial and otherwise to being an owner. Students need to hear this from owners. Unfortunately, many students hear only the negative, problematic aspects of pharmacy ownership. Involvement of more positive owners in the classroom may help in this regard. In addition, attendance of students at professional meetings like NCPA, the American College of Apothecaries (ACA) and Professional Compounding Centers of American (PCCA) where everyone is upbeat, positive, enthusiastic and optimistic would be helpful." Mercer's program has no external funding.
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