Pharmacy School Has the Formula, Advances to No. 1

A decade of aggressive growth, enhanced efficiency and a focus on improving patient care has earned UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy the No. 1 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s graduate and professional school rankings.

“We are extremely gratified to receive this acknowledgment from our peers,” said Dean Bob Blouin. “It is important to know that this ranking is not an end unto itself but rather a validation of who we are, what we do and what we believe in as a school. Our continued purpose is to accelerate needed changes in health care, education and research to improve the health of the citizens of North Carolina and the world.”

U.S. News surveyed deans and faculty at more than 130 accredited pharmacy schools in the U.S. for the 2017 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” They were asked to rank the nation’s top schools and their PharmD programs, a professional degree for pharmacists similar to the MD for physicians or DDS for dentists. Since doctor of pharmacy programs first were ranked in 1997, the school has risen to No. 1 from seventh in 1998 to third in 2005 and second in 2008 and 2012.

Since the previous ranking, the school has rolled out a number of initiatives that have contributed to increased opportunities for students and to the quality of its degree programs:

  • The school is leading preclinical and clinical pharmacology efforts to flush out hidden reservoirs of the virus as part of the $20 million HIV Cure partnership between UNC and GlaxoSmithKline.
  • In 2015, the school launched a reengineered PharmD curriculum that includes more active learning in the classroom, more experience with direct patient care and greater opportunities for students to participate in research activities.
  • In December 2014, Fred Eshelman ’72 made a historic $100 million gift to the school to establish the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, which funds and supports high-risk, high-reward proposals developed by students, faculty and staff. The institute recently made its first awards, but it was the announcement of the gift that put the pharmacy school in the national spotlight.
  • The school founded a satellite campus for PharmD students in Asheville, with the goal of providing more health care practitioners for the western part of the state. The new campus offers a Rural Health Scholars program that prepares students to work with a variety of health care providers in practices that serve the needs of North Carolinians living in rural and small communities.
  • Funding for the school’s research enterprise has grown from $2.2 million in 2002 to $22.7 million in 2013 (peaking as high as $27.7 million in 2012). The school’s research programs have generated 15 companies between 2005 and 2014 and 131 patents over the same period.
  • To provide students the chance to explore and influence pharmacy practice around the world, the school formed the PharmAlliance partnership with University College London and Monash University and established the Global Pharmacy Scholars Program.
  • The school has taken a leading position in nanomedicine and pharmacoengineering by establishing a prestigious training program in cancer nanotechnology, overseeing an $11.3 million grant to fund the Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and receiving a grant to develop a nanoformulated treatment for stroke.
  • Collaborations drive the school’s efforts to improve care and lower costs through better use of medicines. Key partnerships include a medication management project with Community Care of North Carolina Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline and a study funded by a $2.4 million grant from the American College of Clinical Pharmacy to examine comprehensive medication management in primary care medical practices.

“We are not in the business of producing widgets,” Blouin said at a celebration of the ranking on March 30. “We are in the business of caring for people. This ranking is so dependent on what our students do — not while they’re here, but when they leave us.”

Eshelman said, “I’m always reminded of the old expression, which I find to be true every single day — you hit what you aim at.”

“We owe our gratitude to our pharmacy faculty, students and staff who measure their success by the number of lives they have impacted with their care, research and support,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “They capitalize on our premier location within the Triangle and on our health affairs campus to move forward the collaborations, partnerships and strategic initiatives that make UNC-Chapel Hill one of the best research universities anywhere.”

The Eshelman school could keep the top spot for a while — in recent years, pharmacy programs have been ranked only every four years.


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