Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Implications for Pharmaceutical Graduate Education and Research

Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Implications for Pharmaceutical Graduate Education and Research

Alok Bhushan, Kimberly B. Garza, Omathanu Perumal, Sudip K. Das, David J. Feola, Dorothy Farrell, Angela Birnbaum
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7623-6.ch014
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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes in the way we teach at all levels of education globally. This chapter specifically focusses on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on MS and PhD programs in pharmaceutical sciences in schools/colleges of pharmacy in the United States. Potential expectations to bring the pandemic in control by rolling out the vaccine gives us hope, but there is an unmet need of medicines to treat patients affected by the disease. The impact of the pandemic on pharmaceutical sciences education has been on the pedagogy of teaching, research, mentoring, writing, and enrollment. This has also affected the progression of students in their programs as well as their stress levels and well-being. The role of administrators and accreditation agencies is critical in supporting graduate education by providing leadership and directions for the successful outcomes of these programs. Challenges and opportunities for these graduate programs are discussed in this chapter.
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Most schools of pharmacy operate under a dual educational mission: both to train future pharmacists in professional Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) programs and to train scientists in graduate programs, which we define here as Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs. These graduate programs exist across a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines, including basic and applied natural sciences, clinical and translational sciences, and social and administrative sciences. Currently, self-reported descriptive information on graduate programs at sixty-four schools of pharmacy in the US is included in the PharmGrad Graduate Directory, a resource for students interested in pursuing pharmaceutical graduate education (American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy [AACP], 2021). While there may be some overlap between the clinically focused PharmD and the research-focused pharmaceutical sciences graduate training, PharmGrad information indicates key didactic and experiential differences between graduate and PharmD programs. Graduate programs typically include a research component, which is the foundation of the PhD but varies significantly in importance across MS programs. There are fully online MS programs, although most graduate programs in pharmacy schools still offer coursework and research training in-person. Generally, graduate program structures provide flexibility in course requirements and research training, to allow students to personalize learning and progress to degree. Similar to all educational programs worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption in delivery of didactic courses and in bench research in pharmacy schools (Higbea et al., 2021; Kawaguchi-Suzuki et al., 2020; Myers et al., 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous Instruction: Courses that are not taught in real time and can be accessed at different times and locations.

Assistantship: Employment opportunity for graduate students that typically supplies a monthly stipend and benefits such as tuition.

Pharmaceutical Sciences: Field that encompasses a broad range of multiple disciplines in the support of drug development, distribution, and surveillance.

Micro-Credentialing Program: Flexible ala carte courses for skill development or upgrading skills related in a specific area. These programs are rapid and supplement traditional programs.

Stackable Degrees: Graduate certificates and ala carte courses that meets the course requirements for a degree such as Master’s or Ph.D.

MOOCs: Massive open online courses.

Hybrid Approach: Combination of in-person instruction/programs and synchronous/asynchronous instruction/programs.

Stackable Graduate Certificates: Certificate credits taken by students which may be used later for fulfilling the requirements for the academic programs. Some institutions have a time limit for these acquired credits for these courses to be used towards a program. These credits can focus on specific skills related to the program.

Contemporary Research: Professional research studies that provide evidence of the impact of instructional practice and leadership.

Drug Repurposing: Identifying new uses for existing/available drug therapies.

Translational Research: Translate basic research to application to improve patient health. This is translated from theory into practice or from preclinical to clinical application.

Bench-Level Lab Work: Scientific research carried out in a laboratory. Bench implicates to work bench in a laboratory where equipment can be placed and operated as well as experimental procedures are conducted.

Holistic Admissions: Review of applications that considers multiple ways an applicant can demonstrate suitability for graduate school, rather than relying only on a single standard measure of success, such as standardized test scores or grade point average.

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