Employment opportunities in pharmacy are increasing in Georgia as the state is expected to employ pharmacists at a growth rate of 12.14% by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To meet this need, undergraduate chemistry and biology students from three University System of Georgia colleges – Dalton State, Georgia Gwinnett College, and Georgia Southern – interested in a career in pharmacy now have a streamlined approach for admission into the University of Georgia’s Doctor of Pharmacy program.
Officials from the colleges are expected to officially sign articulation agreements with the UGA College of Pharmacy at separate ceremonies in January. Such agreements will provide these undergraduate students a guided pathway into UGA’s four-year pharmacy curriculum and will allow participants to get an earlier start to a career in this critical healthcare field, all while saving tuition dollars.
A key goal of these partnerships is to expand accessibility of pharmacy education while increasing the quality of PharmD applicants. Each agreement has been meaningfully built to raise awareness of the field for traditionally underrepresented groups — whether it be in communities of color or those in rural areas. Many students from these institutions have already made the UGA transition successfully and have positive feedback about their experiences. “I attended Georgia Southern University in 2020, and despite being in the middle of a pandemic, I was able to be introduced to all that pharmacy had to offer, thanks to my amazing GSU advisors,” said Baylee Howard, a P1 from Statesboro. “The interactions I had at Georgia Southern led me to the University of Georgia and it really opened my eyes to all the institution’s efforts to encourage and support pharmacy candidates.”
Students from GSU and GGC, who are in their junior year and have maintained certain academic criteria to successfully fulfill all of the College’s requirements, will receive a guaranteed admission interview. Those admitted can then complete their bachelor’s degree with transferred credits.
In the first such agreement for any pharmacy program in Georgia, admitted students from Dalton State will matriculate into the pharmacy program after completing their Associates Degree. For all agreements, aspiring pharmacists will be eligible to receive structured guidance directly from UGA faculty, staff, and current PharmD student mentors while at their undergraduate institution.
Along with their professional education, UGA pharmacy students also may choose to complete a Masters of Business Administration, a Masters of Public Health, or a Regulatory Sciences Certificate while they earn their PharmD.
According to Kelly Smith, Dean of the College, the role of pharmacists is expanding. “With a population increasing in numbers, age, and diversity, the role of pharmacists is more important than ever before – especially in hospitals and clinics in which Doctors of Pharmacy are increasingly expected to provide direct patient care through comprehensive medication management. In addition, the pandemic has been a significant indicator of the value of pharmacists in helping people address their healthcare concerns. Our unique curriculum is well-suited to prepare an aspiring pharmacist for such challenges.”
“At UGA, I have adapted and continued to evolve in the program,” explained Chigbogu Ekemezie, a P2 from Duluth who transferred from GGC. “One of the main lessons I have learned is to keep my options open and to explore different avenues of pharmacy practice. I am leaning toward practicing as a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) and will be applying to the dual degree program for the MBA track. I am constantly amazed by the different career paths that a pharmacist can take.”
Pharmacists are the fourth highest paid professionals in the U.S., making a degree in pharmacy a sound investment, according to Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest jobs and recruiting sites. In addition, the UGA College of Pharmacy is ranked 24th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, and the pass rate for the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination is 95.4 percent, the highest of all Southeastern Conference colleges of pharmacy and seven percent above the national average.
“Studying at UGA has pushed me to my limits, and it has made me realize what I am truly capable of accomplishing,” added Christa Sutton, a P3 from Dalton who transferred from Dalton State. “I have learned more in pharmacy school than I ever thought was possible, and I am extremely grateful to all the amazing professors who have gone to such great lengths to explain difficult concepts and guidelines to us. Studying as a PharmDawg, while one of the most difficult things, has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”
Dalton State students interested in attending UGA’s Pharm.D. program may contact Dr. Randall L. Griffus, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
GGC students interested in attending UGA’s Pharm.D. program may contact Dr. Julia Shearer, GGC School of Science and Technology.
GSU students interested in attending UGA’s Pharm.D. program may contact Kelsey Reeves, from the Office of Preprofessional Advising.