Shannon Short, unlike many of his contemporaries in the current job market, isn’t the slightest bit worried about finding a job when he graduates from Kansas University.
The third-year KU pharmacy student from Salina sees a statewide pharmacist shortage as a good thing, at least for him. Attracted to the field because of a love of helping people and a love of science, he figures a little job security could go a long way.
“The shortage is a perk,” he said. “I’ll definitely get a job when I get out.”
For others, however, a shortage of pharmacists in Kansas means real trouble — rural counties without a working pharmacy, and longer drives for people in need of medications.
With an expansion on the way for next fall, KU’s School of Pharmacy is poised to take on more applicants than it had been able to in the past.
Ken Audus, dean of pharmacy, said the school is set to move out of aging Malott Hall and into its new West Campus quarters Aug. 3.
“By the time classes start two weeks later, I hope we know where the light switches are,” he said.
The $45.5 million, 110,000 square-foot facility hasn’t come easily. KU officials had to work with state legislators to obtain bonding authority for the space after then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed an original funding plan for the project because of the way it used gambling revenue from proposed casinos.
In addition to the new building, a $4.5 million expansion is under way on the school’s Wichita campus.
Once in the new Lawrence building, KU will be able to expand its current set of students from 105 to 150. The Wichita expansion could add 40 more students.
Audus said the pharmacy school also is working to increase the number of pharmacy residencies in the state.
“The students that want to do residencies are leaving the state to do that,” Audus said. “When they do that, they tend not to come back.”
Audus said the new building will play a key role in improving the quality of education and research done at KU. He said what KU was working with in Malott Hall was the “’50s and ’70s version,” in many ways.
“We’re going to be moving to 2010,” he said.
Short, the student, said that with all the retiring baby boomers, he’s confident KU pharmacy students will continue to find good jobs with good pay for some time to come, even with the expanded space.
“Even with that, I don’t think it’s going to saturate the job market,” Short said.
In addition to its work force contributions, the school is also working on a number of research projects to support KU’s quest for National Cancer Institute designation. The drug discovery, development and delivery research being done at the pharmacy school is considered one of the key elements of the upcoming application to become an NCI-designated center, said Scott Weir, director for KU’s Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation, who also oversees KU’s drug development.
KU has moved three drugs into clinical trials, including Nanotax, an ovarian cancer drug. Two other drugs are in clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic and in Toronto, Weir said, in collaboration with various groups. The drug efforts represent one of KU’s largest weapons in its ongoing fight against cancer.
“We feel this is a unique, defining feature of our cancer center,” Weir said. “It’s something we can have an emphasis on.”