For pharmacists, it’s back to the future

Tomorrow’s pharmacists will do far more than “count, pour, lick and stick.” They’ll choose medications for specific patients, decide the dose, read lab results, examine patients, give vaccinations and more.

“It’s ‘back to the future,'” said Myron Jacobson, PhD, Dean of the UNT System College of Pharmacy. Back to the days when the pharmacist was more accessible than the physician, adjusted drugs depending on a patient’s improved or worsening symptoms, and often was on call when the doctor wasn’t.

The College of Pharmacy is educating these pharmacists of the future. Its second class of nearly 100 students started classes last August on the UNTHSC campus.

They’re being trained to collaborate with a complete health care team. They learn how to use a physician’s guidelines to modify medications and assist doctors in remote locations, communicating via videoconference. They learn to communicate with physical therapists, nurses, physician assistants and other members of a health care team to deliver the best patient care.

Tomorrow’s pharmacy is likely to dedicate at least one pharmacist to seeing patients while others fill prescriptions, said Ashley Toale, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacotherapy.

“We will get to know our patients,” said second-year student Jason Trinh.

“We’ll save money for the patient with fewer physician visits and for the nation as a whole because doctors can concentrate on more complex diseases,” said Ethan Wheeler, also a second-year student.

The College of Pharmacy holds candidate accreditation status from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, having earned the highest marks in that review. Full accreditation is granted upon graduation of the first class, which will be in spring 2017.

“The U.S. spends the most on health care of any country in the world, but we’re way down on the list of results,” Dr. Jacobson said. “What brings people to the ER? Too often, it’s misuse of medications or interactions of meds. The ER is by far the most expensive way to handle this.”

A more efficient, less costly and more accurate way to address the problem, he said, is to train pharmacists to be vital links in the health care team. The College of Pharmacy is uniquely positioned to do this.

“We are the first pharmacy school in Texas on a health science center campus, which facilitates collaboration and interprofessional education,” Dr. Jacobson said.

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