College of Pharmacy to Implement New PharmD Curriculum

October 28, 2014

In 2015, the University of Iowa’s Doctor of Pharmacy program will be 20 years old. To keep up with the changing needs of the pharmacy profession, the college will be implementing both a new curriculum and new teaching methods to ensure that graduating pharmacists have the necessary skills they need to excel in today’s health care environment.

The College of Pharmacy will implement the new Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum beginning with the class admitted in the fall of 2015. A committee of faculty members, led by Associate Dean Hazel Seaba and Gary Milavetz, division head of Applied Clinical Sciences, has worked to transform the curriculum with a student-centered approach to teaching.

Expected learning outcomes focus not only on knowledge but also on the development of personal and professional skills. Student pharmacists will demonstrate expert knowledge of medications and pharmacy practice, as well as effective decision-making, teamwork, and communication. Developing these skills will prepare students to provide effective and beneficial patient-centered care.

A new feature of the curriculum is the Aligned Component Course series (ACCs). The ACCs will be sequenced by human organ systems, with interdisciplinary faculty working together to teach comprehensive modules on each part of the body while focusing on active learning to develop critical thinking skills. This is a novel approach to teaching that will help students to better apply scientific concepts to their practice.

Another key feature of the new curriculum is called professional discovery. “Fewer than 25 percent of pharmacy schools include a professional discovery component in their curriculum, but there is clear evidence that it improves student success,” said Associate Dean Seaba.

The professional discovery course sequence will involve PharmD students in team-based research projects to develop collaboration, leadership, and research skills. Studies have shown that long-term research projects have a high impact on educational success. Professional discovery will encourage critical thinking, innovation, and professional engagement, giving students additional skills and experiences they need to succeed in their careers.

Interprofessional education will be a priority in the new curriculum. Students will work on teams with other health sciences students. There will also be more flexibility for students seeking dual degrees and additional specialization, including expanded elective course selections and the opportunity for specialized certification.

“This is a student-focused curriculum,” said Seaba. “Pedagogies and assessments will focus on addressing the student as a whole.”

The new curriculum will be assessed by student and faculty evaluation surveys, a knowledge examination in the third year, and preceptor reports to determine the impact the curriculum has had on student learning. These assessments will guide further refinement and development of the new curriculum.