As Kansas University expands its presence in Wichita with the capability to train more pharmacists, KU leaders say the increased number of graduates will serve a basic need for more pharmacists in the state.
It’s an important mission, says Ken Audus, dean of the KU School of Pharmacy.
“We still have counties out in the state without a pharmacy, and counties with just one pharmacy,” he said.
And the state will soon face an increased demand for pharmacists because of the aging population. One pharmacist recently made it known to the school that he was seeking a successor, Audus said.
“When we send our students out for these rotations, that is almost a recruiting process,” he said.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said that the school’s mission to train more pharmacists in the state was a success, based not just on the state’s assistance in creating the new facilities in Wichita, but also because of the school’s new building on the Lawrence campus. Both of those have allowed the school to increase the number of pharmacists it trains.
“I hope we have the same kinds of success in engineering,” Gray-Little said, alluding to another state-backed project that is providing bonding authority for more building space at the KU School of Engineering.
Audus said that the Wichita campus will have about 20 students to begin with, and will have a capacity of 40 students eventually.
Before the new additions, the KU pharmacy school had been training about 105 new pharmacists a year. In the class of 2015, that number will have increased to 170 students, Audus said.
To accommodate the new students, the school added a new floor to an existing building at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita campus. The school will have 20,000 square feet of new space, Audus said.
The Wichita campus will be led by an associate dean, who will run the school in Audus’ absence, Audus said. The school hired Bob Emerson from the University of Houston to fill that position, he said.
Emerson was a member of the KU faculty before leaving for Houston for an administrative post, so KU was pleased to be able to attract him back, Audus said.
The expansions on the Lawrence and Wichita campus are being paid for with $50 million in bonding authority from the state — about $45 million for the new pharmacy building in Lawrence and $4.5 million for the school in Wichita. Audus said the money represented a “tremendous investment” by the state.
Initially, one clinical assistant professor will be located in Wichita in addition to the associate dean, but Audus said faculty will be added gradually over the next few years until the campus has five or six faculty members teaching there.
Until then, much of the education will be done virtually, using teaching from the Lawrence campus. Audus said that he hoped that when the Wichita campus was fully staffed, its faculty members could provide distance education to students in Lawrence, too.
A Sept. 15 celebration is being planned in Wichita to honor both the new School of Pharmacy’s space as well as the expansion of the KU School of Medicine in Wichita from a two-year to a four-year medical school.