Should Academia have a role in the politics of pharmacy?

Recently I challenged Academia’s competence in preparing pharmacy graduates for the real world; the piece received attention from several quarters.  Comments came from fresh graduates as well as veterans, and included the Dean of the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy Dr. David Edwards.  My only response to Dr Edwards is that I agree 99% with every point he makes.   I offer no rebuttal, with the exception that I continue to believe it is important how we name our educational institutions.  This is the difference between The Banting & Best Institute, and the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy; it recognizes different accomplishments.   Truth is I always believed standards to be exceptional and that this translates into the best educated & best informed pharmacy graduates ever.  Educational standards, quality, and even applicability were never a question for me

After reading the direction of the comments, I now realize that I failed to deliver my point clearly enough; it is both more complex and simpler.

Here is my 2nd attempt by way of clarification.  A few premises first:

The profession of pharmacy breaks out into two broad directions.

The first is the hospital setting, or the Family Health Team setting, or many other non-profit / public supported settings where pharmacists work in teams collaboratively with the singular aim of applying their knowledge and skills to the health and wellbeing of patients.  In these settings pharmacists not only require all of the knowledge they bring to the table, but they continue to grow this knowledge and become even better over time and through experience.  These are professionally satisfied pharmacists who are thankful for the great education they received.

The second broad direction is the retail setting, which further breaks down into, independent pharmacy practice and into Big Pharmacy Retail (BPR).  BPR are chain stores, box stores, mass merchandisers, grocery stores.   BPR has its own association which used to be called the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS) but has recently changed its name to The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada.  Clever.  I presume they are just neighbourhood stores now and not huge multibillion dollar businesses.

Numbers indicate that the majority of graduate pharmacists (around 80 %), go into a retail setting, and the majority of these end up working for BPR.  In Ontario BPR now fills over 80% of all prescriptions in the province (though represent 50% of physical locations).   The significant reality is that BPR is neither owned nor controlled by pharmacists.  My stats may be off a bit, but the macros are accurate.

As well, the forces at play in this tough, fiercely competitive, mega square foot businesses marketplace are retail driven.  Remember TARGET anyone?  Reduced to simplest terms, retail is all about selling as much stuff as possible, at the lowest possible cost to create as much profit as possible for the shareholders of the corporation.

But what has this to do with Academia?  And why should anyone hold Academia to any degree accountable for what eventually happens to the intelligent highly capable graduates that pharmacy

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