In a press conference held Friday at SKCTC's Cumberland campus, college president Dr. W. Bruce Ayers joined with attorney Frank Kilgore, who serves as chair of the University of Appalachia College of Pharmacy's (UACP) Board of Trustees, to officially announce their new alliance.
Also in attendance were SKCTCS Interim Dean of Academic Affairs W. Wheeler Conover and Pam Whitehead, Ayers' executive assistant.
Now in its first year, UACP offers the Appalachia region's first three-year accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy program. According to Ayers, SKCTC has partnered with the pharmacy college by developing a two-year curriculum which leads to an Associate in Science degree, and also meets the entrance prerequisites for prospective doctor of pharmacy students.
Kilgore described UACP's doctor of pharmacy program as an educational approach that saves students one year in tuition and related educational expenses and allows them to enter the job market a year before graduates from conventional four-year pharmacy schools.
Ayers said he was excited for SKCTC to become a part of the innovative venture.
"We've always had long history of students going into pharmacy as a career, and it really placed a hardship on them to travel far distances in their pursuit of a degree," Ayers said. "This partnership makes things easier."
According to Conover, the two-year associate degree plan will, if completed, give students preference when applying for UACP's competitive admission. He said the courses that will be offered at SKCTCS has "more rigor" or "specificity" than those required by UACP in order to provide the maximum benefit to the potential pharmacist.
Kilgore said 77 students were enrolled in the pharmacy graduate degree program this year. The program has 65 openings for next year, but already 650 applications have been submitted.
Currently, there are 6,000 unfilled pharmacy vacancies in the United States. In 2020, that number is predicted to jump to 30,000.
The average yearly salary for a pharmacist is $100,000.
"This is a way of giving students in the heart of Appalachia the opportunity to stay here, to obtain their professional degree here, and to go back into their communities and help improve the quality of life for so many people."
Ayers described the partnership as his college's intent in offering a variety of medical-related education degrees.
"It's consistent with our emphasis in the health and science fields of study," he said. "It allows us to offer more curricula than any other community college in the state, and it's important in our area that we continue to do so."