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UW-Madison launches new initiative to train more pharmacists from around Wisconsin

PharmD Early Assurance program promises high school seniors and early UW freshmen admission to flagship pharmacy school if conditions met

A vaccine is transferred from a vile to a syringe in the back of a pharmacy.
Pharmacy student Joe Crahan draws up a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine suitable for children under the age of 5 Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at Fitchburg Family Pharmacy in Fitchburg, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has launched a new effort to train more pharmacists from around the state. The initiative offers high school seniors and first-semester freshmen at UW System universities an assurance they’ll be admitted to the flagship’s Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Pharmacists don’t just work at retail drugstores, said UW-Madison School of Pharmacy Assistant Dean Jeremy Altschafl. In fact, around 65 percent of graduates from the school’s Doctor of Pharmacy program go on to work in specialized roles coordinating patient care in hospitals and clinics.

Altschafl is now working to recruit students into UW-Madison’s PharmD Early Assurance program, which promises a seat in the pharmacy school to high school seniors or freshmen students starting their first semester at any state university if certain conditions, like a 3.2 grade point average, are met.

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The PharmD program is a four-year professional degree for students that complete between two and three years of prerequisites like calculus, chemistry, physics and statistics.

It’s a new pathway, Altschafl said, allowing students to finish their pre-pharmacy requirements at UW System schools closer to home before transferring to UW-Madison to complete their training.

“We really believe that this will provide an opportunity for more students across Wisconsin to choose to complete their pre-pharmacy work at these UW system schools across the state,” he said.

So far, 21 students from five state universities around Wisconsin have already applied, Altschafl said. Students can send their applications as soon as they receive their admission offer from a UW System university, and current UW System students must apply before Dec. 30 of the first semester of their first year.

“Students that come into our pharmacy program have a general interest in, of course, wanting to be a pharmacist,” Altschafl said. “But they learn a lot of different things about pharmacy once they’re in the program. And many of our students are surprised, as they move through our program, about the different things you can do with a PharmD.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth of pharmacist jobs is only expected to grow by around 2 percent through 2031, but demand for those working in hospitals and clinics is projected to increase.