Pharmacy program more competitive

Michelle Herrick

Michelle Herrick

Despite the shortage of pharmacists in the nation, the SDSU College of Pharmacy has avoided lowering its standards.

This spring, 60 of 211 students who applied were accepted to the doctorate of pharmacy program for next fall.

Joel Houglum, the college’s coordinator of student affairs, explained why more pharmacists are needed.

“People are living longer and there are more drugs on the market,” Houglum said.

With only 60 available slots each year, the college has a rigorous admissions process that includes GPA, ACT, two personal essays and shadow experience.

Some lucky students are able to bypass the spring rush for a spot.

Erin Bowar, a freshman pre-pharmacy major from Faulkton, met all the requirements and was pre-admitted to the program, instead of having to wait and apply after she had a few years of college under her belt.

“I’ve wanted to be a pharmacist since I was a sophomore in high school,” Bowar said. “I’ve always loved science and math.”

Since she is pre-admitted to the program, Bowar is required to take three honors courses in pre-pharmacy, maintain a 3.4 GPA and shadow a pharmacist.

“I know some students who were not pre-admitted, and they are pretty stressed about getting in,” Bowar said.

Most applicants and students who are accepted are from SDSU, though some are from schools in Minnesota and Iowa. On average, about 12 of the 60 who are accepted already have a bachelor’s degree.

“The disappointing part of this process is that we turn down a lot of good students,” said Houglum, who also chairs the admissions committee and teaches pharmacy classes.

Nearly 42 percent of students who graduate from SDSU’s pharmacy program accept full-time positions in the state.

According to a department survey, the average salary in 2002 was $73,000.

“We have a very good reputation in pharmacy circles,” Houglum said.

“Our pharmacy students perform well in national competitions and often win awards.”

In addition, no SDSU student has ever failed the National Board Exam that determines license eligibility.

“We credit it to three main things-the selection process, the Midwest work ethic and the faculty,” Houglum said.

The pharmacy program started six years ago and recently increased their enrollment from 50 to 60 available slots.

Another expansion is not immediately possible.

“We would need more resources-faculty and space-to increase our program even more,” Houglum said.

Pharmacists aren’t the only medical professionals needed nationwide. More nurses are needed as well.

An official in SDSU’s College of Nursing says interest in that career has also increased.

Within the College of Nursing last semester, 82 students applied and 64 were accepted.

“It is becoming more competitive with the nursing shortage and more are coming in each year,” said Gloria Craig, department head for nursing students services.