The Role of Dual-Degree Program in Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy:
The Report of the 2008-09 Research and Graduate Affairs Committee
M. Lynn Crismon, Pharm.D.a*, Frederick S. Albright, Ph.D.b, Daniel J. Canney, Ph.D.c, Nanita G.
Das, Ph.D.d, Ahmed S. Mehanna, Ph.D.e, Lynda S. Welage, Pharm.D.f, Susanna Wu-Pong, Ph.D.g,
Kenneth W. Miller, Ph.D. h
aUniversity of Texas at Austin, Chair*
bUniversity of Utah
eMassachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences--Boston
fUniversity of Michigan
gVirginia Commonwealth University
hAmerican Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
According to the Bylaws of AACP, the Research and Graduate Affairs Committee shall provide
assistance to the Association in developing its research, graduate education, and scholarship
agenda. This assistance may include facilitating colleges and schools in formulating and
advancing legislative and regulatory initiatives and nurturing collaborative activities with
organizations sharing an interest in issues related to the pharmaceutical sciences.
AACP President Victor Yanchick charged the committee with defining the role of dual degree
programs within colleges/schools of pharmacy and asked the committee to consider what roles, if
any, the Association should play in promoting, recruiting, and describing these programs to
prospective students. Additionally, what role should the Association play in documenting the
enrollments and graduations from these programs?
While post-PharmD residency education and training continues to be a common and popular
pathway for approximately 20 percent of PharmD graduates, a significant number of
colleges/schools of pharmacy are offering and pharmacy students are choosing alternative
educational pathways to expand their post-PharmD career options in both pharmacy and the
healthcare industry. These alternative educational pathways are dual or joint degree programs.
Dual degree programs allow students to combine the competencies developed through the
PharmD degree program with a new set of competencies developed through their concurrent
enrollment and completion of other professional or graduate degree programs. The educational
outcome of most dual degree programs is expanded students’ expertise in disciplines that are
valued in more non-traditional areas of pharmacy practice. Additionally, enrollment in dual
degree programs offers the participating student increased interaction with other health and non-
healthcare professionals in activities such as pharmacy and health care systems management,
public/population health and healthcare, health care policy and advocacy, jurisprudence, and
research in areas such as drug discovery, drug development, outcomes research and clinical trials.
In the 2005-06 edition of the AACP publication, Pharmacy Student Admission Requirements
(PSAR), a total of 32 colleges/schools were listed as anticipating offering a total of 42 dual degree
programs in cooperation with non-pharmacy colleges/schools. In the 2009-2010 edition of PSAR,
41 schools were listed as anticipating offering a total of 51 dual degree programs with a separate
non-pharmacy program. In the 2005-06 PSAR, 26 colleges/schools of pharmacy were listed as
offering a PharmD/PhD dual degree program, and in 2009-10 PSAR, this had increased to 30
colleges/schools, about half of those colleges/schools of pharmacy which offer the PhD degree.1
In the 2001-2002 PSAR, 18 colleges/schools were listed as offering the most popular dual degree
program, the PharmD/Masters of Business Administration (MBA). The number of PharmD/MBA
programs listed increased to 30 in 2005-06 and to 36 by 2009-2010. Although the number of
students enrolled or graduated from PharmD/MBA programs since their introduction around 1980
is not known, the increase in the number of colleges/schools of pharmacy offering this dual
degree programs has significantly increased over the past decade.
Pharmacy colleges/schools have offered dual degrees for over 25 years, yet there is little
information on the numbers of students who have enrolled in and eventually completed these
programs. Individual colleges/schools may have detailed information on the careers of those
students who completed their dual degree programs, but the information has remained
proprietary. Thai and Draugalis published a demographic study of PharmD/MBA programs in
2002 and provided the first look at the structure of these programs.2 An AACP Council of Deans
and Council of Faculties Task Force on Dual Degree program obtained additional information on
the enrollments and numbers of graduates from dual degree programs in 2005.3 Recent papers in
the Journal by faculty from the University of South Carolina on their PharmD/MBA dual degree
program and the University of Kentucky on their dual degree programs has given the academy
the first information on why students choose to enroll in dual degree programs and what they find
most valuable about participating in these programs.4-6
Recommendation 1: The AACP Institutional Research Enrollment and Graduation Surveys
should collect enrollments and graduation data from all formally recognized college/school of
pharmacy dual degree programs. The number of students enrolled and graduating from the
PharmD program component should be reported as usual. The number and type of dual degrees
awarded should be reported only after both degrees have been awarded and reported to AACP as
a separate dual degree category.
Suggestion 1. Colleges/Schools of pharmacy should collect data from all students, including dual
degree students, on their career choices (eg. employer, residency site, graduate school, etc.) after
Dual, double, joint and combined degree programs
There does not appear to be any official Federal Government Department of Education
definitions for the terms dual, joint, double or combined, so the websites of a number of different
universities were examined to determine if a common definitions were available that
distinguished between dual, double, joint, or combined degrees. In summary, there is little
consensus in definitions and in several cases, the uses of the terms in describing programs were
contradictory. Some universities use the terms interchangeably in program descriptions. When a
distinction between dual and joint degrees is made, the dual degree program is defined as students
working for two different and distinct degrees in parallel at the same or different universities,
completing both degrees in less time than it would normally take to complete them separately
(sequentially). This requires that the cooperating programs have agreed upon a curricular
structure which allows students to be simultaneously enrolled in two different degree programs.
Students pursing a dual degree must successfully apply and be admitted to each degree
component separately. In dual degrees involving the PharmD program, most often the non-
PharmD component is offered by another school/college within the university, but in some
instances, the non-PharmD component is offered by a school/college in another university.4 When
a student completes a dual degree program, they receive a distinct degree from each participating
school/college of the program, either at the same time, or at different times when the
requirements for each degree are completed.
At several institutions, the term joint degree is defined differently than a dual degree program. In
these cases a joint degree refers to a single degree awarded by a university or universities for
completion of a unique combined degree program worked out between two or more disciplines,
either within one university or among multiple universities. There appears to be only one such
program offered by a colleges/school of pharmacy, whereupon completion of the program, the
student receives a single PharmD/MBA joint degree.7 In all other programs, students receive two
degrees upon completion of the requirements of the respective degrees. Thus, for the remainder of
this report, the term dual degree will be used.
The structure of dual degree programs
Dual degrees, particularly in medicine, have been experiencing considerable growth over the past
few decades. The oldest formal dual degree program is the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) which leads to a MD/PhD. This program was
instituted in 1964 to encourage medical schools to educate and train a cadre of physician
scientists. At present 40 MSTP programs are funded at 45 degree granting institutions, and an
additional 75 MD/PhD programs, modeled after the MSTP are offered at medical schools using
internal and external funds.8 Thus, almost every medical school program offers this dual degree
The MD/PhD programs are highly competitive, partly due to the fact that admission to the
program provides six years of financial support, including a stipend, tuition allowance, travel
money, and money for equipment and supplies for the PhD component of the program. While
there is some variation in the structure of the programs, in most the student takes two years of
medical/graduate level coursework, interrupts medical school for 3-4 years of PhD research work,
and then returns to complete clinical education/training in medical school. The vast majority of
PhD research in the program is carried out in laboratory-based biomedical science fields. This
focus on biomedical science is reflected in the type of research MD/PhD graduates generally
pursue upon entry into academia, the most common career pathway.9,10
In addition to the MD/PhD dual degree, medical schools offer an increasing number of dual
degree programs. In 1997, eight medical schools offered the MD/MBA.11 In 2009, the
Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) web site listed 50 medical schools that
offered the MD/MBA option. Additionally in 2009, 23 medical schools offered the MD/JD, and
77 offered the MD/MPH.12 The MD/MPH dual degree program, the most common dual degree
program after the MD/PhD program, use several different approaches to completing both degrees
more quickly than the traditional sequential degree pathway.13-15
In colleges/schools of pharmacy, application to the non-pharmacy degree component of dual
degree programs such as the MBA, Masters of Public Health (MPH), and Masters of Public
Administration (MPA) occurs after a student has been admitted into the PharmD program and has
satisfactorily completed at least a semester of the PharmD program of study. In PharmD/MBA
dual degree programs, the already enrolled PharmD student applies to the cooperating School of
Business and is admitted to the MBA program if they meet that program’s admission
requirements. Application to the MBA degree program can occur during the first or second
professional year of the PharmD program. As with any general rule, there are exceptions. For
example, the Campbell University PharmD/MBA dual degree program allows students who have
completed a baccalaureate degree to seek enrollment in the MBA program before admission to
the PharmD program.16 The completion of a baccalaureate degree does not appear to be a general
requirement for non-PhD dual degree programs, but delaying application until the end of the first
or second year allows a student to accumulate enough credits equivalent to a baccalaureate
How the curricular pathways of the traditional PharmD and non-PharmD component degree
programs are modified to allow for completion of the requirements of both of the advanced
degrees in less time differs amongst dual degree programs. Some dual degree programs require
summer session coursework for the non-PharmD degree component or the non-PharmD degree
components are completed by taking evening or weekend coursework concurrently with PharmD
coursework taken during the daytime.4,6 Some programs use a stop-start process, whereby the
student stops progress in the PharmD program for a year, usually after the third professional
year.17,18 During the year of the suspended PharmD curriculum, the student takes a full load of
courses in the non-PharmD degree component. When the student resumes the final PharmD
professional year, they take one or more courses in the non-PharmD component, and in the case
of some PharmD/MPH dual degree programs, utilize elective Advanced Pharmacy Practice
Experiences to complete a required Public Health experiential requirement. At universities where
the non-PharmD degree component does not offer summer session or evening coursework, the
PharmD student completes the non-PharmD degree within one year after the completion of the
PharmD rather than the more common two year requirement. Concurrent completion of both
degrees within the typical four-year professional PharmD degree curriculum appears to be most
dependent on the availability of evening or weekend coursework from the non-PharmD
component. The use of the stop-start curricular model appears to be due to the desire of the non-
PharmD degree component to immerse students totally within their structured curriculum for at
least one complete academic year.
Another characteristic of formalized dual degree programs which facilitates completion of both
degrees in a shorter time period is the ability accorded dual degree students to utilize selected
coursework from the non-PharmD component as PharmD curriculum electives and selected
PharmD coursework as electives in the non-PharmD component. There are a number of areas
where pharmacy practice or health care overlap with business, public health, public
administration, or clinical research and pharmacy students enrolled in a dual degree programs
should have one or more pharmacy faculty role models whose expertise is recognized by the non-
pharmacy program. Having pharmacy elective courses accepted as fulfilling the course
requirements of the non-pharmacy degree component contributes to the recognition that these
dual degree programs are more than just a convenient pathway to another degree, but a planned
combination of educational experiences that can provide the graduate with an extra set of
competencies that are complementary to, or synergistic with, those of the PharmD program.
The structure of PharmD/PhD dual degree programs is more variable than PharmD/Masters
degree dual degree programs. Admission to a PhD program is often through the university’s
graduate school not the college/school of pharmacy and a separate admission applications must
be made to each component. Some PharmD/PhD programs require completion of a baccalaureate
degree or its equivalent before admission into the program. Other graduate schools do not allow
concurrent enrollment in professional and graduate programs. Colleges/schools of pharmacy have
negotiated formalized PharmD/PhD dual degree programs with the graduate school, while others
which offer a PharmD/PhD dual degree pathway simply allow students to fulfill graduate school
course requirements as PharmD program electives, thus potentially shortening the time required
for completion of the PhD after completion of the PharmD degree.19-23 In the pathway programs,
the students are not enrolled in the graduate school until the student receives the PharmD
There may be advantages to students enrolled in a formalized dual PharmD/PhD structure if they
are charged graduate school tuition, usually lower, rather than the professional degree tuition. Of
course, this may be a disadvantage to the college/school if it retains professional tuition to fund
its operation. The provision of teaching or research assistantships may also be made available to
students in a formalized program. There may be some outside impetus for formalizing
PharmD/PhD programs given that the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the
National Institutes of Health offers a pre-doctoral (F31) individual training grant for up to three
years for students who have completed a baccalaureate degree and are presently enrolled in a
formal combined PharmD/PhD program and are now in their dissertation phase. Unfortunately,
this training grant, as it is now structured, cannot be used for supporting a PharmD degree or the
PhD program component after the student has completed their PharmD.25 Given that all
PharmD/PhD programs now available have students earn their PharmD degree prior to the PhD
dissertation research component of the dual degree, it would appear that no present PharmD/PhD
dual degree programs are eligible. However, those dual degree students who receive the PharmD
may be eligible to apply for a Postgraduate F32 award for the PhD portion of the program.26
As with the PharmD/MBA and PharmD/MPH dual degree programs, PharmD/PhD dual degree
programs are designed to decrease the time required for students to complete both degrees than
would be required if done sequentially, but unlike other professional and even some non-research
thesis MS degrees, a PhD program requires completion of an original research project acceptable
to the student’s advisor and examination committee. A completion time for the research
component cannot be predicted or guaranteed.
Suggestion 2: Colleges/schools of pharmacy which offer or plan to offer PharmD/PhD dual
degree programs should work to have the programs formally recognized by the university’s
graduate school so that the PharmD/PhD students are eligible to apply for financial or tuition
support available to graduate students.
Graduate certificate programs
An alternative pathway to dual degree programs to obtain advanced education/training in a
specific discipline is the graduate certificate program. Graduate certificate programs are
university-recognized, graduate school approved programs of study as contrasted with a
certificate one earns after completing a continuing education course, or a program designed to
teach a new skill such as how to administer immunizations which results in the awarding of a
certificate of completion. Graduate certificate programs require a smaller number of university
approved graduate courses to complete than that required to complete the Masters degree. In
some cases, students who complete a graduate certificate program may decide to continue on to
complete the degree requirements for a Masters in the same area as the certificate. Often some of
the certificate courses can be used to partially fulfill the degree requirements.27,28 Because of the
confusion between a graduate certificate program, a certificate for completing a short continuing
education program, or the concept of certification, graduate certificate programs are not common
in colleges/schools of pharmacy. However, they do have value in providing knowledge and skills
that can assist students in focusing on a career option, and they have the potential of developing
interest in continuing on to a graduate degree in the area of the certificate or related discipline.
Graduate certificate programs can be combined with the PharmD during the professional degree
curriculum so that students can graduate with a combined PharmD/Graduate certificate.
Suggestion 3: Colleges/schools of pharmacy should explore offering graduate certificate
programs in the pharmaceutical sciences and practice areas where the specialized knowledge and
skills needed to practice cannot be fully covered within the PharmD curriculum. The coursework,
didactic and laboratory should be of sufficient rigor that it would be acceptable for graduate
Dual degree programs as preparation for academic positions
There is general agreement within the academy that there is a need for PhD-level faculty
members who have completed a PharmD program.29 Given that most entering PharmD students
already have three or more years of a college education, the majority with a BS degree,
convincing students to pursue a 4-5 year PhD program after completing a 3-4 year pre-pharmacy
curriculum followed by the 4 year PharmD is a daunting task given the time commitment and the
availability of challenging and high paying opportunities upon completion of the PharmD degree
and licensure. Several colleges/schools offering the PharmD/PhD have developed financial
packages, reduced tuitions or teaching/graduate assistant programs which reduce the potential for
excessive debt upon completion of both degrees to attract current PharmD students to enroll in
their PharmD/PhD programs.20,21 To maximize the potential of reducing the time required to
complete a PharmD/PhD program, a student must commit to starting the program early,
preferably in their first PharmD professional year. Thus, students should be recruited and
admitted into PharmD/PhD dual degree programs concurrently with students being recruited and
admitted into the PharmD program. Students who express interest in research 1-2 years after
entering the PharmD program lose some of the time saving advantages of a dual degree program
along with potential financial support.
Should or could the admissions criteria for the PharmD/PhD student differ qualitatively from
those of a PharmD student if colleges/schools recruited and admitted students directly into a
PharmD/PhD dual degree program along with an entering PharmD class? Presently, it appears
that students interested in entering a PharmD/PhD program must separately apply to and be
accepted into the PharmD program, the PhD program, and in some institutions, the PharmD/PhD
program. An argument for these separate admissions criteria is that not all PharmD/PhD students
will complete the PhD requirements and therefore must meet admission qualifications to reenter
or remain in the PharmD program if they withdraw from the dual degree program. Currently,
approximately 30 percent of MD/PhD students enrolled in the MSTP withdraw from the program,
despite the generous financial support.30 Thus, an attrition rate equal to or exceeding that should
be expected for PharmD/PhD students to withdraw from the PhD degree portion of PharmD/PhD
programs even when there are financial consequences. If there is no difference in the admissions
criteria for a PharmD or PharmD/PhD program, will it be possible to selectively recruit students
into the dual degree program. If a student’s stated interest or experience in providing “patient
care” is weighted more heavily than “interest in research” as an admissions criteria, students
interested in a PharmD/PhD program could be disadvantaged in being separately admitted to the
PharmD program. There is good evidence demonstrating the MD/PhD graduates choose academic
careers at a significantly higher rate than those graduates with a MD degree.30,31 Therefore, if
academic pharmacy desires more faculty with both PharmD and PhD degrees, it will need to
actively recruit students directly into PharmD/PhD programs. This may require admissions
criteria into the PharmD/PhD programs to be slightly different than those for the PharmD
Suggestion 4: Colleges/schools of pharmacy should actively recruit and directly admit students
who have completed the appropriate academic requirements into their PharmD/PhD program at
the same time other students are directly admitted into the PharmD program.
Of the Masters-level dual degree programs with a non-pharmacy component, the PharmD/MPH
or similarly structured dual degree programs appears to provide the PharmD student the best
preparation for a career within academic pharmacy. Most MPH programs provide advanced
coursework in statistics, epidemiology, and data analysis that would enhance the research
potential of an individual with a PharmD who wished to pursue an academic career in pharmacy.
The lack of scholarship by PharmD faculty whose primary post-PharmD training comes from
residency training is well documented.32,33 Several colleges/schools of pharmacy are attempting to
remedy this deficiency by combining residencies with a MS degree program that provides
advanced coursework in several disciplines common to MPH programs, and programs associated
with Academic Health Centers with Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) often
offer a Masters of Clinical Research (MCR) program to prepare clinical scientists.34,35
Dual degree programs as preparation for non-traditional pharmacy and healthcare roles
The 2005 COD/COF Taskforce on dual degree programs survey asked the participating programs
to select from a list of reasons, those that were most important for offering a dual degree. More
than one selection was permitted. The reason chosen most often was “Prepare dual degree
graduates for alternative non-academic pharmacy careers.”
In studies of dual degree programs conducted at the University of South Carolina and the
University of Kentucky, graduates and students enrolled in dual degree programs listed the
following advantages to dual degree programs:4-6
Interaction with students outside the college/school of pharmacy
Improved problem-solving, leadership, communication and writing skills.
Exposure to the business side of health care.
Ability to set themselves apart from other pharmacy graduates.
A common finding in both the South Carolina and Kentucky dual degree programs is the interest
of the students in looking for career opportunities outside of traditional pharmacy practice,
including the pharmaceutical industry. This is consistent with the primary reason given by
colleges/schools of pharmacy offering dual degrees. The combination of a health care degree with
a business degree provides students with more education and training to move into health care
management positions either within pharmacy, or within profit, not-for-profit, or governmental
healthcare organizations. Students completing the University of South Carolina PharmD/MBA
indicated less interest in entering a traditional residency, presenting pharmacy practice with
somewhat of a dilemma in identifying and preparing leaders for the future using the traditional
post graduate experience, the residency.
A survey of health-system pharmacy directors, managers, practitioners, pharmacy students and
employers conducted by the 2004 American Society of Health-system Pharmacists (ASHP)
designed to assess the leadership situation in health-system pharmacy indicated that there will be
a large exodus of pharmacy directors (4000-5000) through retirement in the next decade.36 The
survey also indicated a lack of interest on the part of managers and students in moving into these
leadership positions in the future. In her 2006 ASHP Harvey A.K. Whitney address, Sara J. White
amplified her concerns about the lack of new leadership in health-systems pharmacy and stated,
“If an organization cannot fill a vacant pharmacy leadership position with a pharmacist, it will
likely fill it with a materials manager, a nurse, a physician, an M.B.A., or an M.H.A., as it must
have pharmacy leadership.”37
Despite White’s concern that pharmacy leadership positions might be assumed by other health
professionals and non-pharmacists with a MBA or Masters of Health Administration (MHA), she
recommended the ASHP-accredited residency as the primary pathway to these pharmacy
leadership positions, despite the fact that the contemporary residency is designed to improve the
medication use process and provide the resident more experience in direct patient care. While
there are 1 and 2-year practice management residencies, and several of the 2-year residency
programs combined with a Master’s degree, the number of pharmacists who complete these
management focused programs is considerably smaller than the number of students currently
enrolled in and graduating from PharmD/MBA and PharmD/MPA programs.3,38 The MBA degree
component may not focus specifically on health care administration/management, but MBA or
MPA electives taught by pharmacy faculty can provide the PharmD dual degree student with
sufficient background in pharmacy and healthcare to prepare graduates for management and
leadership positions either within a traditional pharmacy practice or a larger healthcare provider
environment. Given the growth in interest and availability of PharmD/MBA and PharmD/MPA
dual degree programs, graduates could be specifically recruited to further develop their business,
fianance, and management skills in community, managed care, long term care or institutional
pharmacy through a specialized residency program which takes advantage of their expanded set
of experiences and competencies gained through these dual degree programs.
Recommendation 2: The AACP Board of Directors, through the Association’s membership on
the ASHP residency Commission on Credentialing (COC) for Residency Accreditation, should
recommend that the COC develop a new one-year accredited residency program for the graduates
of PharmD/MBA and PharmD/MPA programs to specifically prepare these dual degree graduates
to assume management and leadership positions in community, managed care, long term care, or
Preparing pharmacy students to become competent in the informatics is another area of practice
that demands academic pharmacy’s attention.39 Despite the accreditation requirement for specific
competencies in the area of informatics, it appears that most programs do not provide adequate or
appropriate instruction in the field of pharmacy informatics which has been defined as “the
scientific field that utilizes a systems approach to medication-related data and information –
including its acquisition, storage, analysis, and dissemination – in the delivery of optimal
medication-related patient care and health outcomes.”40 In order to develop faculty expertise, to
teach to the outcome competencies in the professional degree program and to provide leadership
in the area of medical/pharmacy informatics, the AACP Technology in Pharmacy Education and
Learning Special Interest Group urged colleges/schools of pharmacy to develop residency and
graduate degree programs in informatics. The development of PharmD/MS dual degree or a
PharmD/Graduate Certificate program in informatics would be an important first step in
developing both faculty and student expertise in this important area. Given the lack of informatics
expertise in the academy, the development of dual degree or graduate certificate programs with
other disciplines on campus will be necessary at most colleges/schools of pharmacy for the
foreseeable future. This would also provide an opportunity to develop research collaborations
between pharmacy faculty and other faculty across the university.
Another dual degree program that prepares students for non-traditional healthcare roles is the
PharmD/MPH. The MPH degree component of a PharmD/MPH dual degree provides the cachet
needed for pharmacists to enter public health positions at the local, state and federal level. Many
federal agencies with a public health and epidemiology focus such as the Center for Disease
Control (CDC) or the Agency for Healthcare Quality are almost devoid of staff with a pharmacy
background. The possession of a PharmD/MPH would provide increased preparation for
pharmacists to join these organizations in a staff position. While an increased role for
PharmD/MPH graduates in the public health arena may remove these individuals from individual
patient care, improving public health is consistent with the mission of the pharmacy education
and the profession.
Promotion of dual degree programs by colleges/schools of pharmacy
Preparing students for academic and non-traditional non-academic pharmacy-related careers are
the primary reasons for offering dual degree programs. Since many potential and current
pharmacy students are not familiar with non-traditional or academic pharmacy careers, it would
appear that colleges/schools of pharmacy offering dual degree programs would need to promote
these programs along with the career options open to their graduates to both prospective and
current pharmacy students. To determine how institutions with these programs promoted them to
prospective students, the AACP staff liaison to the committee examined the AACP PSAR, the
PharmCAS web site of the participating institutions and the college/school web sites to determine
what information was provided for potential and current students who might be interested in
career opportunities other than traditional practice. While a lack of information on the programs
within publications or web sites may not totally reflect the promotion of these programs to
students, most college/school of pharmacy web sites do provide extensive information on their
stand alone PharmD and graduate degree programs in the pharmaceutical sciences (MS, PhD) and
the careers which are available to those graduates.
Examination of the PSAR revealed that only one-third of the colleges/schools that claim to offer a
dual degree program included it in their PSAR narrative. Most colleges/schools which did refer to
the availability of a dual degree programs simply stated that the programs were available. A few
institutions provided a brief narrative on the goals of the programs.
The PharmCAS web site provides institutions participating in the centralized on-line application
service a standard template for providing information to students on their professional degree
program along with an active link to the college/school web site. Some PharmCAS participating
colleges/schools listed available dual degree programs, while a few referred students to their web
site for more information. Only one school provided a link to the specific web pages promoting
and explaining the dual degree programs.
A college/school web site is often the first experience a prospective student has with an
institution. Although there are large differences among web sites in terms of look and ease of
navigation, most colleges/schools of pharmacy have web sites that allow prospective students,
either professional or graduate, to find information on the admissions process and curricula of the
PharmD program and the research focus of the graduate programs and the faculty. Dual degrees
such as the PharmD/MS and PharmD/PhD where both degree components are offered by the
college/school of pharmacy are generally easy to locate. However, finding information on dual
degree options when the second degree component is available through another college or school
such as Business or Public Health was often frustrating. Some colleges/schools list these dual
degree options under the PharmD program, some under Prospective Students, and some don’t list
them at all on the pharmacy college/school web site. The 2009-10 PSAR Table 4, titled Dual-
Degree Programs Anticipated for 2009-10 was used by staff liaison to the committee to identify
institutions who potentially offered dual degree programs.1 Interestingly, the staff liaison had
difficulty locating any information on a significant number of PharmD/MBA programs that were
ostensibly being offered on the respective pharmacy web site. In cases where no information on
the dual degree program was available on the pharmacy college/school web site, detailed
descriptions of the dual degree program, including the curriculum was found on the School of
Business’ MBA web site.41-43 In some cases, the availability of the PharmD/MBA was listed on
the pharmacy college/school web site, but program outcomes, career options and details for
admission and curriculum were found on the School of Business web site.
While a few colleges/schools of pharmacy do an excellent job in promoting the advantages of
dual degree programs with non-pharmacy components to prospective students, the majority of
institutions simply list the availability of the dual degree program and the majority of information
on the programs is found on the web site of the non-pharmacy degree component. This lack of
information on dual degree options, particularly on providing the rationale and/or potential career
outcomes of pursing two concurrent degrees raises some interesting questions. Is it due to the fact
that no one on the administrative staff or faculty was given the responsibility for the promoting
the programs and/or advising potential dual degree students? Alternatively is there a lack of
interest on the part of the college/school administration and/or faculty in promoting the program
to students. That might occur if the dual degree program is viewed as potential competition with
the college/school’s own graduate programs. Another possible reason is that a significant number
of faculty members are not supportive of non-traditional career options for their graduates. Or, the
dual degree program was the idea of the non-pharmacy degree component (e.g., Business School)
and the college/school of pharmacy faculty passively went along with the idea giving all the
responsibility for promoting the program the partnering college/school.
The impact of dual degree programs on institutional culture
In a study of MD/MBA students at 6 medical schools, Sherrill attempted to analyze the career
choice behavior of students choosing this dual degree path given that the traditional medical
school culture of clinical superiority does not encourage business training, and may in fact
discourage it.44 The role of the traditional culture of a profession or segments of a college/school
faculty in influencing student career choices should not be underestimated. Even though the
college/school may offer a new degree pathway due to internal (eg, student) or external market
demand for specially trained pharmacists (eg, business), there might not be faculty buy-in.
Sherrill suggests that by offering dual degree programs such as the MD/MBA, the medical school
is recognizing an exception to the traditional approach to medical education and thus is not only
influencing student’s career choices, but also the legitimacy of the role of the physician executive.
Thus, whether intended or not, when a college/school offers a dual degree program which is
designed to prepare graduates to assume non-traditional roles, it is stating that it values
individuals who pursue less traditional roles in the profession.
The acceptance of non-traditional career pathways is not only an issue in professional education.
In a recent editorial, Bruce Alberts, editor of Science states that attitudes about career paths for
PhD graduates and postdoctoral fellows are changing, with interests in a broader range of career
choices.45 Alberts, a respected scientist who served as President of the National Academy of
Sciences before being appointed editor-in-chief of the journal Science, states the following about
these PhD science students and postdoctoral fellows:
One senses that we are reaching a tipping point, where students who prefer to work in
the world of public policy, government, precollege education, industry or law will no
longer be viewed as deserting science. Faculty and students can then begin to talk
honestly about a whole range of respected, science-related career possibilities. This is
crucial, because we must promote the movement of scientists into many occupations
and environments if our end goal is to effectively apply science and its values to solving
As a simple exercise, substitute the word pharmacy for science, and pharmacists for scientists in
the preceding quotation, and insert the word healthcare before problems.
Given the expansion of dual degree programs over the past decade, it is assumed that
colleges/schools of pharmacy initiating these programs have done so after study, discussion, and
approval of their faculty members who realize that they are not only incorporating a change into
their educational model, they are signaling to students an acceptance of non-traditional careers
either inside or outside the profession. College/school faculty may not realize what sociopolitical
impact they are engendering when they offer a new dual degree program, but only view it as
simply offering another curricular pathway. This may explain why a significant number of
colleges/schools which offer dual degree programs fail to promote them to prospective students,
and leaves that promotion to the non-pharmacy degree component.
While the previous discussion focused on the cultural impact of offering a dual degree on
students and the profession, offering dual degree programs has the potential to stimulate
interprofessional and interdisciplinary education, research and practice, which can also impact the
culture of the faculty as well as students. Interprofessional and interdisciplinary education,
research and practice are important components of a pharmacy research and education as
illustrated by the following Policy Statements approved by the AACP House of Delegates.46
Colleges/schools of pharmacy should work to advance learners’ human cognition,
ethical developments, and behavior. Meaningful strategies include teaching and
assessing ethics, cultural competency, intra- and inter- professional teamwork and
community engagement with underserved populations.
AACP endorses the competencies of the Institute of Medicine for health professions
education and advocates that all colleges and schools of pharmacy provide faculty and
students meaningful opportunities to engage in interprofessional education, practice and
research to better meet health needs of society.
Some may interpret interprofessional and interdisciplinary to only pertain to education, research
or practice amongst health professionals such as pharmacy, nursing, and medicine. In the South
Carolina and Kentucky experiences with dual degree programs, students rated the opportunity to
interact with students from disciplines outside of pharmacy as a valuable benefit of the program.
Students indicated that they improved skills such as problem solving, communication, and
leadership in these interdisciplinary programs. Dual degree programs by their nature provide
interdisciplinary education and teamwork opportunities for students who are enrolled in the
programs. There is little evidence faculty in colleges/school of pharmacy have taken advantage
these programs potentially have to offer in stimulating interprofessional and interdisciplinary
research and/or teaching, but that may be due to the fact that most of these program are quite new.
Policy Statement: AACP encourages its member institutions to support the development of dual
degree programs that provide pharmacy students increased educational and research opportunities
resulting in an expansion of academic or non-traditional pharmacy/healthcare career options.
The numbers of dual degree programs offered by colleges/schools of pharmacy have been rapidly
expanding. Despite this growth, there has been very little information regarding the impact of
these programs on the students who enroll and graduate from them, and more importantly on
what impact these dual degree programs have had on the culture of the institution. Offering a dual
degree program should involve more than the passive act of providing pharmacy students with
another curricular option. The type of dual degree offered and the involvement of pharmacy
faculty in the dual degree requires changing the culture of an institution. This is apparent to those
faculty who have attempted to negotiate changes in the professional curriculum to allow some
flexibility for students who are enrolled in dual degree programs, whether they be internal such as
the PharmD/PhD, or external with another college/school such as the PharmD/MBA. Increased
information on the numbers of students enrolled and graduating from dual degree programs, and
more importantly their career paths after graduation will contribute to a more objective discussion
of their role in pharmacy education.
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