UI College of Pharmacy celebrates 125 years

BY KATIE HEINE | APRIL 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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Bernie Cremers has been in pharmacy for nearly 50 years.

The 69-year-old graduated from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy in 1964, taught pharmacy students at the UI for 27 years, and co-owns and operates two local pharmacies.

For Cremers, pharmacy filled his life. And the UI made it possible.

As the College of Pharmacy celebrates its 125th anniversary this academic year, Cremers and others said the UI program has continually been a leader in the field.

“For some reason, Iowa pharmacists have always been very committed to just practicing the best possible pharmacy we can,” Cremers said.

The 10-month long anniversary celebration will conclude today with a seminar on pharmaceutics and transitional therapeutics.

Founded in 1885 as the Department of Pharmacy, the pharmacy school is the nation’s fourth-oldest program in a public university. The college boasts such accomplishments as establishing the first hospital pharmacy graduate program in 1938, developing the nationally used Unit Dose System in 1965, and being ranked 16th in U.S. News & World Report’s 2008 Best Graduate School pharmacy programs.

But for many alumni, faculty, and current students, the college’s most enduring advantage has been its adaptability in an ever-changing field.

“Today, it’s about more than just prescribing, it’s about caring for the patient,” said Barbara Kelley, the external relations director for the college.

The original role of a pharmacist was to turn raw chemicals into products, said Jeff Reist, a UI clinical assistant professor of pharmacy. While that practice is still taught and used today, the majority of drugs are commercially made, leading to a shift in attention.

“There’s been a big change in our focus — we’re increasingly patient-focused,” said Reist, who received a B.S. in pharmacy from the UI in 1982 and a doctorate from the University of Florida in 2007.

Cremers said he treats his patients like family. But when he started 47 years ago, pharmacists were not encouraged to interact with patients at all.

Officials have implemented “high-energy activities” — like taking patients’ blood pressures or interacting with a patient who has allergies — to give students real-life experience, Reist said.

“We’re still involved with products, but we’re adding to that,” he said. “In addition to providing a product, now we take the next step and look at the positive outcomes we can offer.”

The college has also organized more projects — such as health fairs — to give students real-world experience interacting with patients.

Around 15 students provided health screenings and educational information regarding diabetes to residents at Oaknoll, an Iowa City adult retirement community, on March 25.

“Getting out in the community and having these opportunities are invaluable,” said Megan Mormann, a third-year pharmacy student.

In addition to one-day projects, fourth-year pharmacy students participate in five-week rotations with various participating practitioners who mentor and teach the students, Kelley said. More than 600 practitioners in Iowa — ranging from hospitals to drug stores — participate in the program.

And after graduation, the training continues. The college community pharmacy residency program was the first reaccredited program nationwide, Kelley said. Students can choose a one- or two-year residency in which they receive further training in a specified setting.

These evolving, hands-on opportunities in the college are essential for continuing the school’s benefits to the state and nation, Reist said.

“We try to put into practice the things we’re teaching,” he said.

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