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Teaching the future of pharmacy

With an eye toward presenting content in a way that students can identify with, Paul Doering, emeritus distinguished service professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, and a colleague instituted changes to the pharmacy school’s curriculum more than a decade ago.

“We wanted to make education case based or student centered, thereby putting the responsibility on the students for knowing and dealing with information,” said Doering, who joined the faculty in 1976 and retired in 2011.

Noting that in pharmacy education today, Doering said virtually all pharmacy schools have transitioned into student-centered, case-based learning, and encouraging group participation to deliver content is key. “With social media and information at the tip of your mouth, why do you have to memorize all this information?” he asked. “The real challenge comes with once you have the information what do you do with it, how do you communicate it, interpret it and respond to it?”

Doering has been instrumental in identifying pharmacy trends, instituting improvements in the pharmacy school’s curriculum, which many pharmacy schools have since adapted, and preparing pharmacists to counsel patients.

“When it comes to teaching techniques, I’ve been concerned with how professors present content to students today — as opposed to early in my teaching career, when there was academic bulimia, or binge and purge,” he said. “I’d write things on the board, students would furiously write it down, I’d give a test, they’d regurgitate it and then we’d move on. That was the way of the old days. It had no context, meaning or framework.”

In one of the courses he developed with his colleague, students performed on a stage in a simulated situation with patients and other healthcare professionals. He noted that students could make mistakes because if they did, nobody would get hurt and educational research shows rote memorization has very short persistence in people’s minds.

Doering also developed a course in over-the-counter products, which transitioned to a nar. It provided students with scenarios involving complicated patient or outpatient-related cases.

Emphasizing that many pharmacists today have expanded authority, such as at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, where they have responsibility for changing doses, ordering lab tests and counseling patients. Doering said, “These are things that need to be taught. They aren’t necessarily instinctive. My hope for the future of pharmacy education is for the trend to be more emphasis on the direct patient-care responsibilities, which includes counseling. The drugs coming on the market today are far more complicated than the drugs of the past. They are really high-tech meds, which call for the curriculum to be altered in that direction, as well.”
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