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By Susanna Wu-Pong

Susanna Wu-Pong

Whether you agree with the idea that graduate education in the United States needs to change or not, the prevailing wisdom in biomedical doctoral education seems to be that graduate education, and the surrounding culture, must evolve to meet the needs of our young scientists. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BEST (Broadening Experiences for Biomedical Scientist) funding opportunity is designed with that end in mind given that the vast majority of NIH trainees pursue nonacademic careers. In fact, significant portions leave research all together. In addition, the NIH requires all trainees to complete individual development plans, indicating that the NIH values individualized career development and planning.

Graduates from pharmaceutical sciences graduate programs, though long considered somewhat protected from employment downturns, now seem to be subject to the same employment vulnerabilities as other industries. In our recent publication The Future of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Graduate Education: Recommendations from the AACP Graduate Education Special Interest Group, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Graduate Education Special Interest Group (SIG) Planning Committee summarizes the current and presumptive future state of our industry and the resulting repercussions for graduate education. The report also recommends that our schools take a leadership role in crafting the next generation of scientists who will not just survive, but rather, thrive in an uncertain economy. Those graduates should have the ability to lead and innovate within multidisciplinary teams comprising existing and emerging disciplines.

Since the publication of the SIG report last May, the SIG has partnered with the AAPS Student and Postdoctoral Outreach and Development (SPOD) Committee to begin implementation of the report’s proposal. Subcommittees in five key areas have made specific implementation recommendations to make the proposal a reality. An AAPS webinar scheduled for June 26 will review the implementation recommendations and the role of AAPS in this effort. In addition, since this undertaking will require the participation of all of the stakeholders involved in pharmaceutical science graduate education, the initiative needs volunteers who can also model the change we are attempting to elicit.

Join us on June 26 to see how you can contribute to crafting the future of our discipline!

Susanna Wu-Pong, Ph.D., is the director of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program. She is the cofounder and Immediate Past Chair of the AACP Graduate Education SIG.