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University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dean’s Corner – Winter 2020

portrait of Steve Swanson
School of Pharmacy Dean Steve Swanson

Dear School of Pharmacy Alums,

It has truly been an historically difficult year, but with your support and the energy, dedication and creativity of our faculty, staff and students, the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy has continued to thrive. We put nearly our entire curriculum online within a two-week period in March, learned how to teach remotely, refined our abilities to practice telehealth, and supplied UW Health and the UW–Madison campus with hand sanitizer during a shortage. Your generous support has helped our students receive vital personal protective equipment and tuberculosis testing needed for their clinical training.

Ed Elder, director of the School’s Zeeh Station, compounds a batch of hand sanitizer for healthcare workers at UW Health.

You have also helped our scientists make breakthroughs such as Professor Tim Bugni’s lab, which just published in the prestigious journal Science their discovery of turbinmicin, a new antifungal compound that targets multi-drug resistant pathogens. Another point of pride this year was the investiture of Professor Seungpyo Hong as the inaugural Milton J. Henrichs Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Milt Henrichs (BS ’44) was a leader at Abbott Laboratories who was a passionate advocate of the School for many years. Thank you all for your generous support of our faculty, staff and students!

Financial pressures at the School include a decline in pharmacy school applications nationally and budgetary shortfall resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our entering class of pharmacy students is smaller than it has been in many years, which is part of a national trend. Over the past seven years or so, the number of applicants to pharmacy schools nationwide has dropped over 20 percent, which is alarming. This year our applicant pool is much better than it was last year at this time, but we remain concerned about national trends. While Amazon’s announcement of their entry into pharmacy adds to speculation about the future of pharmacists’ role in the drug supply chain, we think that the role of pharmacists in patient-centered care will continue to grow. An example is the future of rural community pharmacy, which we think will become even more important for patients’ access to the healthcare system. Innovative new programs like the Rural Pharmacy Practice concentration is an example of how we are evolving our curriculum as the field of pharmacy evolves so that we can continue to meet the needs of patients while attracting more bright young people to our profession.

Increased costs and decreased revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic is another major budgetary challenge that we and organizations of all kinds the world over are facing this year. The university is addressing this financial challenge in a number of ways including instituting a hiring freeze, a ban on travel and re-evaluating all of our business practices. Campus has also instituted furloughs for faculty and staff as well as pay cuts for leadership. Our challenge is to continue to deliver an innovative, top quality curriculum with fewer resources. I know we can do this because we have brilliant, passionate, and hardworking people.

Speaking of our people, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) selected our School as one of its three 2020 AAPS Student Chapter Award winners for exceptional service and outreach. The School’s Beta Alpha chapter of Phi Lambda Sigma won the PLS Chapter of the Year award this year for their Caring for the Caregiver project, which focused on supporting family members and other loved ones who care for Alzheimer’s patients. I am very proud of our PhD and PharmD students who are regularly recognized at the national level for their outstanding work.

Thanks to all of you who have supported the School with your time, talent and treasure. We greatly appreciate all you do to help us educate and train the next generation of pharmacists and research scientists.

Thank you and On, Wisconsin!