West Virginia University

S. Suresh Madhavan, M.B.A., Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Pharmaceutical Systems and Policy

Program Description

The West Virginia University (WVU) School of Pharmacy's program has been in place since Fall 1998 when the School's entry Pharm.D. curriculum was implemented. The school offers a sequence of courses designed to help students "not only become good managers in whatever area of practice they join but also teach them how to do needs' assessment in their practice settings, identify appropriate services to provide, implement the services making practice changes when necessary, market the services, seek compensation, and evaluate the impact of the service," said Prof. S. Suresh Madhavan, M.B.A., Ph.D., department chair of WVU School of Pharmacy's Pharmaceutical Systems and Policy.

"We have taken the perspective that while entrepreneurism is important to pharmacy practice, just as important is for pharmacists to be intrapreneurial in chain settings and provide patient-oriented pharmacy services. Ultimately, we feel that, how we provide value added services in both independent and chain settings will determine future success of community pharmacy practice."

The courses and faculty responsible are:

  • Pharmacy Management (management functions and strategic planning, financial and marketing modules) - Drs. Jan Kavookjian and Suresh Madhavan
  • Pharmacy Systems (operational management and human resources modules) - Drs. Suresh Madhavan and Virginia (Ginger) Scott
  • Patient Health Education (patient and provider communication) - Drs. Virginia (Ginger) Scott and Jan Kavookjian
  • Health Promotion/Disease Prevention - Dr. Lesley Ann Miller
  • Outcomes Assessment and Quality Improvement - Dr. Michael Smith

Through these classes, WVU students get an overview of entrepreneurial/ intrapreneurial opportunities available in community and institutional practice, and also insights into management/leadership functions. Apart from didactic teaching and readings, students are required to work on various types of course projects individually or sometimes in groups. Interviews of community and institutional pharmacy leaders are required in one course project and in two courses students develop marketing plans and new service plans while working with pharmacists. Students must also present their plans to the course faculty and peers. Students are also afforded the opportunity to listen to distinguished independent and chain pharmacy leaders talk about entrepreneurism and the importance of management and leadership skills.

When asked who advocated for the creation of these courses, Madhavan said the curriculum was the response of faculty in the Pharmaceutical System and Policy department to Dean George Spratto's call in 1996 for a state of the art entry Pharm.D. curriculum. Dean Spratto called for a curriculum that would prepare our students to practice at the highest level of contemporary pharmacy practice and consistent with the needs of West Virginia citizens. "There was no arm twisting necessary or opposition to our plans from anyone on the school faculty or University administration to have the curriculum we wanted to have," Dr. Madhavan said.

According to Madhavan, there is no opposition to offering this training in pharmacy schools. "I do not believe that there is any resistance to offering entrepreneurial training in pharmacy schools. I also do not believe that faculty in my school or in most schools have any negative perception about working in the retail setting. In fact, 60-70% of our graduates go into community pharmacy practice."

Madhavan cited a diminishing interest in pharmacy ownership by the students as the culprit. "Students," he said, "seem to have little interest in becoming entrepreneurs, or at least while they are in school. A class of 70 to 80 students will typically have two to three students who will raise their hands if asked about it. Another five to ten will express an interest in becoming pharmacy managers. I have seen student feed back in which students will suggest that a certain course dealing with management topics be an elective rather than a required course because they perceive that most of such knowledge will never be useful in their career of choice. And the number of students who feel this way is quite large and growing. Interestingly, students after they graduate (and many surveys have shown), come back and comment about how important management training really is and they wish they had focused more on learning management skills while in school."

Continued Madhavan, "Thus, given what size a curriculum can be and the need to compress as much important material as possible given all the constraints, most curriculum have only a handful of required courses dealing with management or entrepreneurism (if any). We also do not see too many electives in this area because the number of faculty teaching such pharmacy administration courses are very few in most schools and they tend to have a heavy teaching load. Add to this the problem of decreasing faculty to teach pharmacy administration courses as increasingly, more and more graduate students in pharmacy administration Ph.D. programs choose to focus their studies in subjects (pharmacoeconomics, pharmacoepidemiology, etc.) where career options are currently more lucrative and diverse."

Student Awareness and Attitudes at West Virginia University

Madhavan agreed with the general assessment that the current high salaries available to new practitioners deter them from considering pharmacy ownership. " I also think that student perceptions of ownership is negative (long hours, third-party insurance problems, personnel problems). Many students are looking for careers where they can leave their work problems at work. Ownership is considered to be a 24-hour job, unfortunately," he said.

Many students are unaware of the positive aspects of pharmacy ownership according to Madhavan. "In fact, I have had several distinguished independent pharmacy owners come and talk to our students about many positives of ownership such, as take home pay, freedom to influence your practice, being in control of work environment, patient contact, community standing, etc. Students seem to be a little surprised when they hear about these advantages."

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