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Careers in Pharmacy 

Academia

Pharmacists practicing in the academic setting have two primary responsibilities: training future members of the profession and conducting research to support and improve practice.

Typically, pharmacists who work in academia have little contact with patients, although this depends on their research emphasis and the position they hold. Researchers conduct laboratory studies and evaluate large amounts of data. Academicians work with other healthcare professionals and students, instructing them on the practice and science of pharmacy.

Pharmacists in academic positions are employed not only in pharmacy schools but also in medical schools and schools that train other healthcare professionals.


Anthony Blash, BS
Instructor of Pharmaceutical Informatics
Drake University, College of Pharmacy, Des Moines, Iowa

Anthony Blash, who received a B.S. in computer science before enrolling in pharmacy school, describes pharmaceutical informatics as a new field involving “the study of any technology that supports the practice of pharmacy.” He received his B.S. in pharmacy from the Arnold Schwartz College of Pharmacy at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus in 1995 and then became the first resident in a postgraduate training program in pharmacocybernetics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. While teaching full time at Drake, he is working on earning a nontraditional Pharm.D. at Creighton.

Anthony switched from computer science to pharmacy because he wanted more control over his future and liked pharmacy’s mix of medical and small business knowledge. When he saw an announcement about the new residency at Creighton, he considered it a perfect opportunity to use both backgrounds. “Toward the end of my residency, tons of hospitals called looking for someone to integrate their computer systems, but I realized that after I’d fixed the problem I might end up dispensing so I chose academia.”

He teaches a required practicum in pharmaceutical informatics and electives on drug information and on use of the Internet. He feels fortunate to be in the forefront of a new branch of pharmacy: “It’s rewarding to help make the pharmacy population more technology driven and aware,” he says. He tries to convey to others his vision of informatics’ role in pharmacy’s future, “but that’s not always easy. Anyone interested in a position like mine definitely needs good communication and persuasion skills.”

Because he is breaking new ground, his ability to work independently is critical, he says. “And networking is important, because we can’t work in a vacuum. We have to bounce ideas off others in the field.” He takes part in an ongoing informatics discussion group on the Internet, which can be found at http://pharmacy.drake.edu/.


Henry Lewis III, PharmD
Dean, College of Pharmacy
Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida

Henry Lewis received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Florida A&M, then went to practice in a community pharmacy. After practicing in that environment for several years, he went to Mercer University where he received a PharmD degree. Henry has also practiced in hospital pharmacy and has owned and operated a community pharmacy. A friendship with Charles Walker, then dean at Florida A&M, prompted Lewis to pursue a career in academia. He has been practicing in this setting since 1973.

In addition to his duties at the college, Henry has testified before Congress, held office of county commissioner, and served as president of both the National Pharmaceutical Association and the Association of Minority Health Professions Foundation.

Henry sees a degree in pharmacy as the unlimited travel ticket that the airlines used to market. A pharmacist license allows one to see and do anything that the pharmacist wishes. He says, however, that the license “comes with a responsibility to help others and to serve the profession.”

Henry advises students to associate with practicing pharmacists as soon as possible after entering pharmacy school. The mentoring and counseling that a pharmacist can provide are critical to a student’s early development. He also advises students to interact with speakers invited to the campus, whether or not they are speaking to an all-pharmacy audience or about health care. Exposure to a broad mix of people and ideas will create a broad understanding of the world and the students placed in it.

To a student interested in pursuing a career in academia, Henry suggests first practicing as a pharmacist. This practical experience can then be brought back to a school of pharmacy to give students a “real life” perspective.

Henry sees the pharmacist of the future as an entrepreneur rather than an employee. Non-pharmacist and technology will increasingly remove the pharmacist from dispensing activities. New practice opportunities in clinics and other ambulatory care sites will continue to develop, so new practitioners need to train themselves to deliver care in these environments. Payment for improved health care outcomes and for cognitive services will be the primary mode for earning a living as a pharmacist. To maximize their compensation, new pharmacists need to learn about professional compensation and how payers decide on reimbursement, Henry believes.