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UH Hilo Pharmacy receives grant for rural science program

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Date: Monday, August 25, 2008
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

Rural undergraduate students will have a chance for a career in pharmacy through the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Education. A grant for $766,363 will help to create a science program for pre-pharmacy students who live in rural and remote areas of Hawai`i and the Pacific region.

“This grant allows us to expand our existing pre-pharmacy program to meet the needs of rural areas of the Pacific that might not have access to formal training opportunities,” said Pharmacy Dean John Pezzuto. “These students are integral to the continued success of the College of Pharmacy as we will be building a base from which to recruit top-notch future doctoral students.”

Students will benefit through mentorship, guidance and tutorial programs, he said. Funding and resources will be made available for students based on individual need to give students the chance to successfully complete academic requirements at UH Hilo.

The grant also will help the College establish an accredited continuing education program that will provide health care professionals information for drug development, clinical pharmacy practice and pharmacotherapy.

“I applaud the successes of UH Hilo’s College of Pharmacy. Through this federal grant, of which I was pleased to support, they will be able to expand their pre-pharmacy pathways to students in rural Hawai`i and the U.S. Pacific. I can remember when it was just another ‘bright’ idea – today, it is a hub for science and math, providing young people with promising paths for the future,” stated U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, whose office approved the funding.

UH Hilo’s flagship College of Pharmacy, beginning its second year this fall, is the only school in the Pacific Rim to offer a doctorate in pharmacy degree. The degree, also called a Pharm.D., is a professional degree requiring four years of study after completion of at least two years in a pre-pharmacy program in an accredited college or university.

The existing pre-pharmacy program at UH Hilo is a two-year program that provides individual guidance, mentoring and advising to Hawai`i’s students, on campus or through distance learning. The new program broadens accessibility by funding up to 20 Pacific Rim students to be trained through a combination of online and on-campus courses through UH Hilo.

The new program extends and expands a distance learning program for pharmaceutical technicians begun four years ago by then program director Dr. Jerry Johnson in partnership with the University of Alaska. Johnson, who is the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will continue to work on the project. He said the program gives people in this region a level of training they never had an opportunity to get before.

“We will continue to link to people in the Pacific Rim including Alaska and within the State of Hawai`i to escalate this into a full career-path program,” said Dr. Susan Jarvi, director of the UH Hilo pre-pharmacy program. “We expect to make significant headway within a year, with hope that students will be entering the system by next summer.”

Jarvi is developing the program along with co-investigator Dr. Anthony Wright, chair of pharmaceutical sciences. Students will take courses in basic sciences, including biology, chemistry and human anatomy as well as general education courses.

“Our goal is to ensure that this program produces candidates who will have the strong education base in math and science that they will need to carry them through their future studies in pharmacy,” Wright said.

The College of Pharmacy seated its inaugural class in fall 2007 with 90 students and 18 faculty and staff. Beginning this fall semester, the college has 30 faculty and staff and 180 students. Current plans call for the addition of 80-90 students per year for a total of four classes.

“This is a clear message from an important federal agency that the College of Pharmacy and the University-at-large is on the right track,” said Chancellor Rose Tseng. “Besides reaching students we haven’t yet touched, we also are encouraging higher education in a variety of disciplines where math and science skills will be beneficial.”

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