(20 May 2010)
The South Carolina College of Pharmacy makes history this spring as it graduates its first class -- 183 students in the integrated University of South Carolina and Medical University of South Carolina pharmacy school.
The two schools joined in 2004, bringing together the resources of a major academic medical center and a large comprehensive university. The idea was to leverage the resources of the two colleges of pharmacy to create a college on par with the best in the country.
"During the past four years, we have implemented one of the best curriculums in the U.S.," said Joseph T. DiPiro, executive dean of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. "We are the program of choice for hundreds of applicants; our research productivity is up; our facilities have been improved, and many of our faculty and students have received national awards and recognitions. We have exceptionally strong partners in health care organizations, and we are attracting top faculty. Not all of that is directly attributable to the integration, but it is clearly working to our advantage. The proof is the caliber of the young men and women we are sending into the profession as SCCP graduates who are USC or MUSC alumni."
The chance to work with a larger pool of top-quality professors stood out for many of the graduating students.
"We’re given so many more opportunities and able to learn from truly some of the best specialty pharmacists," said Laura Broom, a student on the USC campus from Harrisburg, N.C. "For example, there are few pediatric pharmacists on the USC campus, so I greatly benefited from being able to learn from Drs. (Kathy) Chessman and (Sandra) Garner, both MUSC professors, while on the other hand MUSC students had the privilege of being taught by great infectious disease professors like Dr. (Scott) Sutton."
Randall C. Rowen, dean of the USC campus, said the integration of the two schools was a step into new territory.
"There really wasn’t a precedent for something like this so we didn’t always know what to expect. Integrating the two colleges was a bold decision made at an opportune time," Rowen said. "I know that most students we honor at graduation will say they are proud to be a graduate of the first class from South Carolina College of Pharmacy."
One of those students is Kendra Manigault of Moncks Corner, who will graduate from USC’s Honors College and the South Carolina College of Pharmacy.
"I came to USC because I came on a tour here and I fell in love with the campus," Manigault said. "I got here in 2004 and I’ve loved it ever since. When I knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school I also knew I wanted to stay here. I’ve had six years and I’ve gotten everything I could have out of a university."
Manigault will head to Atlanta after graduation to do a residency with Kaiser Permanente. After that, she hopes to pursue a fellowship or perhaps an MBA.
Two of the graduates from the MUSC campus got more than just a PharmD out of their time at the College. Chris Dykes, a native of Columbia, S.C. who grew up on a military base in Germany, and Lisa Olson Dykes, an Iowan who chose SCCP because it was in a warm place she’d never been, met within a few weeks of beginning school. Now married, the two are going into a career with the U.S. Air Force.
"Well, I met my now husband within the first few weeks of school, which I never expected to happen," Lisa Dykes said. "We were friends for awhile before we started dating and the rest is history. I was torn between the military and a civil service position. However, after many conversations with him, our recruiter, and several friends, I decided to join the Air Force as well."
The two will report for officer training with the U.S. Air Force in Alabama and then be stationed in Biloxi, Miss.
"We will be active duty pharmacists on bases in the U.S. and overseas throughout our careers, either in a hospital or clinic setting, traveling somewhere new every few years. And yes, fortunately, the Air Force sends us together."
Of course, if they ever need to pull some strings, the integration of the two pharmacy schools brings with it a collateral benefit — access to the alumni of both institutions. And when it comes to high ranking pharmacists in the military, MUSC and USC just about have a patent. In recent years, the highest ranking pharmacist in the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy all hailed from one of the two schools. Currently, the highest ranking pharmacist in the Air Force is Col. Everett McAllister, who served as pharmacy consultant to the surgeon general of the Air Force before being promoted to deputy chief of the Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate. McAllister, a USC pharmacy alumnus from the Class of 1984, serves on the SCCP Leadership Advisory Council.
Chris Dykes, whose father is an alumnus of USC’s pharmacy school, attended the College of Charleston for undergraduate education and chose to stay in Charleston for his pharmacy education.
"MUSC would have been my choice campus-wise. And with the merger they would take the best of both worlds," he said, adding that the chance to work with faculty, including infectious disease specialists at the USC campus, was one of the highlights. "I would never have gotten that chance if it was just MUSC. And if I went to just USC, I wouldn’t have gotten our fantastic hospital at MUSC. Dr. DiPiro is bringing everybody together. He has lot of pull in the pharmacy world. It’s a coveted spot to be a part of the college now."
Classmate on the USC campus Chris Bachochin was a police officer in Darlington and a former Army paratrooper before he decided to become a pharmacist. He already had a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a master’s in public administration from Troy State.
"When I started, we had just adopted our daughter. So there I am my first day in class trying to figure out how I’m going to do this with a wife and 4-month-old baby," he said. "I’m used to being a non-traditional student. I believe my maturity and life experience allowed me to essentially do what was needed to be done to get my degree."
Bachochin lives in Lamar, a small town in Darlington County, and he drove about an hour to the Columbia campus for classes. The distance education setup between the Charleston and Columbia campuses was a learning experience for him.
"I had some experience with internet classes and distance education, but never to the scale that we’re currently using it now," he said. "As long as it’s done right, I don’t foresee a real issue with it."
He is working at Clarendon Memorial Hospital in Manning, and getting ready to take his boards. He plans to stay in a hospital setting.
William Shealy is from Columbia, S.C. and stayed in his home town to earn his bachelor’s in marine science from USC, where he completed his prepharmacy requirements. He decided to enroll in the South Carolina College of Pharmacy for the opportunities it afforded.
"If there was one aspect of the SCCP that impressed me the most, it was the overwhelming plethora of opportunities. Opportunities for leadership, personal growth, business, service, education and mentorship abound at the SCCP no matter which campus you are at ... take it from someone who spent four years at both campuses."
Manigault said it’s been an advantage – and sometimes a challenge – to have the MUSC and USC pharmacy schools integrated.
"I knew my experience with the SCCP might be a challenge due to the merger, but I was ready for the challenge and comforted by the impressive history of both pharmacy schools," she said. "We’re the first class. Some things at first may not have worked perfectly, but they’ve listened to us. They’ve listened to our concerns and suggestions."
The administration was eager to get student feedback from the first class because the curriculum was new and in many ways so was the College.
"One advantage the Class of 2010 got was giving a lot of input into our curriculum," said Philip Hall, interim MUSC campus dean. "Student feedback is a big part of our assessment plan so we review student input every step of the way. Since this class was test driving a new curriculum we were even more attuned to their input."
The Class of 2010 left its mark on the curriculum … and history.
"The presidents and boards of trustees at USC and MUSC had a vision in 2004 – leverage the resources of two colleges of pharmacy to create a college on par with the best in the country," DiPiro said. "In many respects, particularly the quality of our students and faculty, we are there. There is still a lot of work to do. But I am proud of and grateful to the many people who have enabled us to reach this milestone, especially the students of the Class of 2010."
At a glance box
S.C. College of Pharmacy, class of 2010
Number of graduates: 183 (108 on USC campus; 75 on MUSC campus)
Average age of 2010 Class: 25 on USC campus; 27 on MUSC campus
Gender: 126 female; 65 male
Accomplishments and highlights of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy
Research funding has increased to place the SCCP in the top 25 percent of colleges. In 2004, the combined funding for both colleges was less than $2 million; it was $5 million this past year.
Despite a sluggish economy, applications to the SCCP were up 10 percent in 2010 and the average GPA of accepted applicants is the highest ever.
Students from both campuses have the opportunity to do rotations at more sites. The SCCP has established partnerships with major medical centers throughout South Carolina including Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, Spartanburg Regional Hospital, Roper St. Francis and the Veterans Administration hospitals in Columbia and Charleston.
The SCCP has launched a $30 million fundraising campaign to build a new pharmacy facility on the MUSC campus.
The SCCP has recruited nationally renowned scientists as Center of Economic Excellence endowed chairs.
The SCCP has five research and service centers: the Palmetto Poison Center, the Center for Drug Discovery, the Center for Cell Death, Injury and Regeneration, the Center for Medication Safety and Efficacy, and the academic detailing program SCORxE (South Carolina Offering Prescribing Excellence). The last two are highly integrated research programs utilizing the resources of both campuses.
The SCCP has expanded into the Upstate and established partnerships with Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center (GHS) and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS). The SCCP has 16 co-funded faculty positions in the Upstate and a full-time Upstate regional director. It expects to open a campus at GHS, where students will be able to complete their third and fourth years.
The USC campus of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy commencement is at 3 p.m. Friday, May 7, at the Colonial Life Arena
The USC campus convocation is at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 5 at the Koger Center in Columbia.
The MUSC campus awards and hooding ceremony is 6:30 p.m. May 20 at the Omar Shrine Temple in Mount Pleasant.
The MUSC campus of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy commencement is at 9 a.m. May 21 in the Horseshoe on the MUSC campus.