Friday, April 9, 2010

UNC-Chapel Hill pharmacy education expanding to UNC Asheville

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The University of North Carolina Board of Governors on Friday approved UNC-Chapel Hill's plan to expand its pharmacy-education program to UNC Asheville in partnership with Mission Health System.

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill will create a satellite pharmacy program that will be based at UNC Asheville. The program at UNC Asheville is an expansion of the successful partnership the UNC-Chapel Hill pharmacy school has had with Elizabeth City State University since 2005. That program will graduate its second class in May.

The start-up costs for the program will be covered by a $2.5 million fund-raising initiative spearheaded by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has pledged $600,000 toward that goal, and the City of Asheville has pledged $100,000. By the fourth year of the program, its cost is projected to be fully covered by tuition and by Mission Health System funding half the clinical faculty's salaries. The partnership program should not require any state funding.

Asheville was considered the natural choice for locating a satellite program because of the close working partnership between UNC Asheville, Mission Health System, and UNC-Chapel Hill. UNC Asheville, a nationally ranked public liberal arts college, is noted for its strong science and mathematics programs.

"The arrival of the Pharmacy School to UNC Asheville is a prescription for a healthier population and a healthier local economy. Today’s decision by the UNC Board of Governors builds on the work of Mission Health System, the Mountain Area Health Education Center and the Western North Carolina Health Network, a consortium of 16 regional hospitals," said Rick Lutovsky, President and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.  "These organizations, along with physician practices and the many local businesses that support the hospitals and physicians, comprise a significant economic engine for our region. The Pharmacy School will only strengthen that engine, which is why the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is committing time and resources to raising the $2.5 million needed to fund the program. It’s an investment in Asheville’s future and the UNC School of Pharmacy that will pay dividends for years to come."

Like its counterpart at ECSU, the satellite program at UNC Asheville will educate more pharmacists in an area of North Carolina that doesn't have enough health-care providers in general. The UNC Eshleman School of Pharmacy recognized the need for more health-care practitioners in Western North Carolina and made expansion into the area part of its strategic plan five years ago. The satellite program could enroll up to 40 Doctor of Pharmacy students a year. (The Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., is the professional degree required to practice as a pharmacist.)

The Asheville community is well known in pharmacy circles for the very successful Asheville Project, which began as a collaboration between the highly ranked UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Mission Health System, the City of Asheville and community pharmacists. It is a multidisciplinary program of care for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It has been widely recognized and copied all across the country.

The project provides intensive education to people with these conditions through their employer's health plan. Patients are also teamed up with community pharmacists who help them understand how to use their medications correctly. The project has resulted in a system in which community pharmacists have developed thriving practices that have improved their patients' health while saving money.

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