Setting High Standards

Published on 01 April 2014

“Most of your life you’re told to plan for your career, but some things you can’t possibly plan for,” says J. Gregory “Greg” Boyer ’76, Ph.D., acting director of professional degree program accreditation at the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). “The foundational underpinnings of the pharmacy profession prepare you for so much that you can do, and I’m a prime example. Who plans for a career in accreditation?”

Eleven years after accepting a staff position with ACPE, Boyer’s passion for accreditation continues to grow. “I once heard ACPE described as ‘the best kept secret in pharmacy,’ Boyer says. “I believe our work is an important part of our profession.” Founded in 1932 as the American Council of Pharmaceutical Education, ACPE is the national agency for the accreditation of professional degree programs in pharmacy and providers of continuing pharmacy education.

In his role as acting director of professional degree program accreditation, Boyer leads and oversees site teams who perform accreditation reviews for established and developing pharmacy education programs. During a site visit, an ACPE team uses a rubric to evaluate ACPE standards, including the mission and strategic plan of the program, curriculum, facilities and resources, and the organization of the school. The site team makes an assessment based on each of these standards and then communicates with the school to help them discover ways to improve. “We have practitioners and educators who serve on these teams,” Boyer explains. “They have wisdom and insight they can share with the programs. We try to incorporate as much of a CQI [continuous quality improvement] component into our work as we can to help programs move to a higher plane.”

Currently, ACPE standards require a two-year minimum of pre-professional coursework before entering a Pharm.D. program; however, some schools, including the College, have expanded  the length of the program. Boyer thinks the benefit of adding an extra year of general studies coursework is twofold. He explains, “First, this change allows certain foundational courses to be shifted to the pre-professional curriculum, thus freeing up time for emerging topics such as genomics, informatics, and the increasing focus on interprofessional education, something STLCOP by virtue of its location has as an advantage in many aspects. Second, this additional year to general studies coursework brings in more mature students into the professional degree program, something I hear repeatedly noted as an advantage in both the classroom and practice-based experiences. Programs like STLCOP are making this change without the ACPE mandate because they believe if they want to become a leading program in the future, they need to make changes now.  It’s a bold step.”

ACPE not only influences the development of pharmacy programs, but also pharmacy students. “If a pharmacist is going to be licensed in the U.S., they must have graduated from an ACPE accredited program,” Boyer explains. As the pharmacist’s role in health care continues to change and adapt so will ACPE. “The role of the pharmacist is changing,” Boyer says. “The Council’s role is to ensure that programs of pharmacy develop curricula and teach students the core skills needed for today as well as for tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow will look like, the role of ACPE will still be prominent.”

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