In many clinics that serve diverse segments of the US population, pharmacists are integral members of the health care team whose contributions have been shown to optimize patient outcomes while being cost effective. Working in partnership with physicians, pharmacists increasingly assume responsibility for medication therapy management—especially for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure—aiming to help patients achieve desired therapeutic outcomes through appropriate medication usage, diet and lifestyle choices.
Community pharmacists are often on the first line of health care. In addition to dispensing medications and monitoring patients for adverse effects and interacting drugs, pharmacists provide important counseling services, such as the proper selection of over-the-counter medications and/or referral to other health care providers. Today’s pharmacist also must be versed in alternative medicines. Many USC graduates own independent pharmacies or have advanced to management positions within retail chain pharmacy organizations.
By 2020, some 37 percent of the U.S. population will be mature adults who will likely consume more than half of all health care resources. Because of the advances in geriatrics being made at USC, the School’s PharmD graduates are leaders in geriatric pharmacy. Careers in this field will serve the needs of this growing population segment.
Local, state and federal governmental agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Veterans Administration and the Armed Forces require the expertise of skilled pharmacists. Many USC graduates work in hospitals and clinics within these agencies.
Home Health Care
Patients formerly treated in a hospital setting are now receiving professional care in their residences through home health care. PharmD graduates who work in this field of pharmacy provide medications, such as intravenous antibiotics, pain management medication, nutritional supplements and chemotherapy. Pharmacists also monitor the patients’ progress and adjust therapy as needed.
Many graduates pursue careers in hospital pharmacy where they are directly involved in patient care. Pharmacists in hospitals monitor and adjust patient medications and work closely with physicians, nurses and other health professionals to determine the most appropriate drug therapy possible. Clinical pharmacists may specialize in a variety of areas of pharmacy practice, including pediatrics, critical care, cardiology, surgery, psychopharmacy, neurology, infectious disease and drug information. USC graduates bring to the hospital setting a strong clinical education background, and the ability and confidence required for direct involvement with patients and other members of the health care team.
Broadly stated, managed care is planned, comprehensive and integrated provision of health care in a cost-effective manner that emphasizes preventive care. Optimization of drug therapy, development of drug formularies, evaluation of therapeutic protocols, patient consultation, and reduction in unnecessary doctor visits and hospitalization are all responsibilities of pharmacists who practice in the managed-care environment.
Modern drug therapy is highly sophisticated, and the pharmaceutical industry recognizes the need for technical proficiency among its sales and marketing personnel. Additionally, the area of research and development provides numerous opportunities for pharmaceutical scientists, including drug isolation and synthesis to formulation, packaging and quality control of the finished dosage form. Because of their expertise in drug therapy and their knowledge of the health care delivery system, USC graduates are actively recruited by major pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Society’s demand for graduates with specialized knowledge in pharmacoeconomics is steadily increasing. The demand for such scholars exceeds the current supply, providing a wealth of opportunities for graduates of USC’s Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy program. Graduates often choose academic positions at university schools of pharmacy, or opportunities in public administration, public health or medicine. A strong demand for specialists also comes from government agencies, insurance plans, managed health care organizations, professional health care associations, hospital administration departments, health care consulting organizations, pharmaceutical companies and international organizations. Pharmacoeconomics faculty teach PharmD students, providing them with exposure to the field.
The USC Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum offers a strong foundation in the clinical sciences. As the first school to develop a clinical pharmacy curriculum and pharmacoeconomic program, USC provides graduates with training that is sought by other pharmacy schools developing pharmaceutical care programs. Nearly half of the nation’s pharmacy schools have recruited USC graduates to join their faculties, to teach clinical pharmacy and to conduct research on optimization of drug therapies and the costs of health care.
Specialized Area Opportunities
Pharmacists with expertise in specialized areas such as consulting, legal practice, drug information, poison control and pharmacy affairs are becoming more in demand as the profession evolves. At USC, students have an opportunity to pursue a range of dual and joint degrees in combination with the PharmD to better prepare themselves for many of these specializations.