By Jim Bleyer
The 65th anniversary celebration of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s pharmacy program next month will commemorate excellence as well as longevity.
Begun as a modest component in the chemistry department in 1951, FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has blossomed into a nationally acclaimed center for medical research. Recent grants have been earmarked for health areas such as molecular modeling, cancer research, and the development of antipsychotic drugs.
The first graduating class had two students. One of them, Geraldine Roberts, still owns and operates her family pharmacy in Tallahassee. Pharmacy became a full-fledged college at FAMU in the 1980s, adding a Master’s program as well as offering a doctorate in pharmaceutical science research. The maturation has garnered FAMU national recognition and the pharmacy college is ranked in the top tier of the more than 130 such programs in the country.
Research grants are viewed as a strong indicator of the quality of an institution, said Dr. Michael Thompson, Dean of FAMU’s College of Pharmacy. The prestigious Blue Ridge Institute for Biomedical Research ranks FAMU as twelfth in generating the most pharmacy research funding. In fact, pharmacy is responsible for approximately 35 percent of the research grants for the entire university which has 13 colleges and schools.
The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy lists the college as the largest recipient of National Institute of Health research grants among all Florida pharmacy programs that also include the University of Florida, University of South Florida, and Nova University. FAMU also topped other southeast schools such as the University of Georgia, Auburn, and Samford. The ranking contributed to the University’s elevation to a “high research activity” institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education System.
All the limelight hasn’t escaped high school seniors with an eye towards a pharmacy career. Thompson said between 600 and 800 students annually compete for 180 slots in the pharmacy school. And more and more of them are out-of-state applicants.
These gaudy statistics, however, do not tell the entire story.
At the heart of the college is its unique Research Centers in Minority Institutions program which attracts more racial and ethnic minority scientists into mainstream research while also promoting minority health research. Investigators there study diseases that disproportionately affect minority populations.
Thompson takes particular pride in the college’s Center for Health Disparities which involves intraprofessional community engagement. Participants include professionals from the departments of social work, psychology, nursing, and other allied health fields. Research for such illnesses as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and heart disease is conducted in underserved communities.
The College’s bulging portfolio of accomplishments will be recounted during the Aug. 25-27 anniversary gala. Delivering the keynote address will be Bakari Sellers, CNN analyst and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Also featured will be the ribbon cutting and guided tours of the new pharmacy building research wing and a scholarship gala and reception.