Remote education is nothing new to the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. As early as 1998, the School launched its innovative Distance Degrees Program (DDP), offering what was promoted at the time as iPharmD degrees for North American and International practicing pharmacists who lacked an advanced doctorate degree.
Now, the School of Pharmacy is responding to pandemic concerns and changing marketplace demands by offering a remote Doctor of Pharmacy degree option. Administrators are quick to differentiate between the School’s existing online DDP offerings and the new Remote PharmD option.
“Whereas our online programs are asynchronous degrees designed for working professionals, this new Remote PharmD option is designed for full-time students who, for various reasons, wish to start their pharmacy education in a virtual environment,” said Dr. Brian Hemstreet, PharmD, associate dean for student affairs.
According to Hemstreet, increased interest in a remote offering stems from lingering concerns about moving during the pandemic, to avoiding the cost of living in the Denver metro area. Other reasons for offering the Doctor of Pharmacy degree remotely have to do with issues of access and equity.
“There is a great need for pharmacists in rural areas,” said Dr. Gina Moore, PharmD, associate dean for administration and operations. “If we can create a way for students in these rural locations to become pharmacists, we can begin to make a major impact on the critical health care needs of this important population.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rural communities tend to have older and sicker residents than do urban and suburban communities. The increased need for medical care and prescription drugs, coupled with fewer primary care physicians in rural areas, exacerbates many barriers to accessing necessary health care. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) indicates that maximizing the use of pharmacists as part of the health care delivery system is among several state strategies to meet the unique health care needs of rural and underserved communities.
Hemstreet explains that students wishing to participate in the remote degree offering must be able to come to campus two times each semester to participate in hands-on experiences, such as lab work and vaccination training. Although classes will be delivered digitally, they will take place in a synchronous manner, in which remote students will be part of each P1 class right along with their on-campus peers.
“The pandemic pushed our School to learn how best to provide online delivery of education,” said Dr. David Thompson, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs. “It resulted in our faculty members honing their skills in effectively using distance delivery methods and digital tools to facilitate student learning.”
The Remote PharmD degree will be offered starting in fall 2021. Students opting for the remote option will have the opportunity to change to on-campus learning throughout their education.