LITTLE ROCK Construction for an estimated $7.7 million facility at Harding University that will house the College of Pharmacy and Physician Assistant Program should begin in June, said Dr. David B. Burks, president of the university.
The two-story facility, located on East Park Avenue, will provide 35,800 square feet of space for administrative and faculty offices, conference rooms, laboratories, examination rooms, classrooms and a student library.
The PA Program, which has been housed on campus extra space on Beebe-Capps Expressway, has been in existence since 2005, and its first class will graduate in July. The College of Pharmacy will host its inaugural class this fall.
"Eventually, our pharmacy school will have 60 students a year," Burks said. "Initially, we'll have 40 in the class this fall, and then we'll have 50 the next year and 60 the next until we have around 200 total when it's up and running."
The College of Pharmacy will be a four-year professional curriculum and will culminate with the doctor of pharmacy degree. The first-year program temporarily will be housed in Claud Rogers Lee Building.
"The College of Pharmacy will house 30 full-time faculty members," Burks said. "It will be like bringing a workforce and small community into Searcy, both with the students and faculty."
He added that Harding will be hiring from outside its existing staff and that many will be older with plenty of experience.
"Although there will be some research" in generating grant money for the school, "because of all the investment, that will not be its primary goal," Burkssaid. "The College of Pharmacy's mission statement will be helping others."
The university is seeking precandidate status with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education - the first of three steps leading to accreditation. The on-site evaluation of Harding's proposed program takes place this week with a four-member ACPE team visiting the campus. The College of Pharmacy is expected to open upon achieving precandidate status from ACPE. Such status denotes a developmental program, which is expected to mature in accord with stated plans and within a defined time period.
The school is accepting applications, and thus far 30 prospective students have been offered positions in the class. Students will be enrolled only when the college achieves precandidate status.
The PA Program's first class will graduate once they have received the master of science in physician assistant studies. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant awarded the "Certificate of Accreditation"to the program in March 2005. This program will continue to operate out of a leased building near campus until the new facility is completed.
Before beginning the PA Program two years ago, a regional-needs assessment study revealed there were 132 such programs in the United States, but none in Arkansas or Mississippi. Government studies indicate that Arkansas ranks 47th in availability of primary-care physicians per capita.
The same documents indicate that Arkansas ranked 49th for number of physician assistants per capita. Physician assistants are one of the 10 fastest-growing employment areas in the United States. They work directly with and under a supervising or sponsoring physician established in clinical practice. They are qualified to provide medical care to patients, working as a team with their supervising physician.
In the new school building, each area's portion of the ground floor will house an administrative suite with offices, a reception and waiting area, a conference room and a facultyworkroom. Both programs will share a large laboratory and 10 examination rooms with an observation area and clinical storage.
The second floor of the building will contain faculty offices, three large classrooms, formulation laboratory, cell laboratory, chemistry laboratory, small conference rooms and student library with specialized pharmacology and physician assistant materials.
Both programs were developed in response to national health-care trends, Burks said. In 2006, the National Pharmacist Workforce Survey demonstrated a shortage of pharmacists for the foreseeable future due to an increase in the number of new medicines, a growing elderly population, greater demand for patient care and growth in community pharmacies.
"The final construction plans will come May 18, along with the final cost estimates," Burks said. "Of course, the final cost estimations never seem to be lower.
"But, after that we can get going on the construction this June."
Three Rivers, Pages 55 on 05/03/2007