Georgia Gwinnett College, UGA College of Pharmacy partner to benefit future pharmacy students

In a formal ceremony held today, officials from Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) and the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Pharmacy signed an agreement that will allow GGC undergraduate biology students, concentrating in biochemistry, to have a streamlined approach for admission into UGA’s Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Dr. Kelly Smith, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Dr. Chavonda Mills, dean of GGC’s School of Science and Technology, signed the articulation document that provides these GGC students with a guided pathway into UGA’s four-year pharmacy curriculum. Ultimately, students will gain an earlier start to a career in this critical health care field, computing to overall cost-savings as well.

The ceremony included faculty, staff and students from the two University System of Georgia colleges, along with remarks from Dean Smith, Dean Mills, and GGC alumnus and current UGA pharmacy student Chigbogu Ekemezie.

While the program seeks to expand pharmacy education, former GGC students have already made the UGA transition.

“I attended Georgia Gwinnett College from 2016-2020, majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry,” said Ekemezie, a current second-year Pharm.D. student from Lilburn. “I always had the intention of pursuing a career in health care, so while I was at GGC, I got involved with the pre-pharmacy organization. The course work and professional relationships with professors at GGC were crucial in how ready I was for pharmacy school. Along with the education they provided, my professors also offered me advice and helped me get to where I am today. I am truly grateful for my time at GGC.”

GGC students in their junior year who maintain certain academic criteria and successfully fulfill all of the College of Pharmacy requirements will receive a guaranteed admission interview. Those admitted then may complete their bachelor's degree with transferred credits earned through the Pharm.D. program. Further, aspiring pharmacists will be eligible to receive structured guidance directly from UGA faculty, staff and current Pharm.D. student mentors as early as their freshman year at GGC.

Once at UGA, pharmacy students also may choose to complete a UGA Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Health or Regulatory Sciences Graduate Certificate while they earn their Pharm.D.

“At UGA, I have adapted and continued to evolve in the program,” said Ekemezie. “One of the main lessons I learned is to keep all of your options open and try to experience different avenues of pharmacy practice. I am heavily leaning toward practicing as a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) and will be applying to the dual degree for the MBA track. I am constantly amazed by the different areas that a pharmacist can practice.”

According to Dean Smith, the role of pharmacists is expanding. “With a population increasing in numbers, age and diversity, the role of pharmacists is more important than ever before – especially in hospitals and clinics in which doctors of pharmacy are increasingly expected to provide direct patient care through comprehensive medication management. In addition, the pandemic has been a significant indicator of the value of pharmacists in helping people address their health care concerns. Our unique curriculum is well-suited to prepare an aspiring pharmacist for such challenges.”

Dean Mills said that the agreement between these two University System of Georgia colleges will meet student needs and add diversity to the pharmacy profession. A 2019 study revealed the percentage of non-white pharmacists stood at approximately 22%.

“This agreement will reduce the total time required for the B.S. and Pharm.D. degrees, and allow our students to save both time and tuition dollars as they begin their careers earlier,” she said. “Mirroring GGC’s ethnically diverse student body, this partnership will ultimately contribute to a more diverse pipeline of pharmacists dedicated to serving all members of the community.”

Pharmacists are the fourth highest paid professionals in the U.S., making a degree in pharmacy a sound investment, according to Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest jobs and recruiting sites. In addition, the UGA College of Pharmacy is ranked 24th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, and the pass rate for the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination is 95.4%, the highest of all Southeastern Colleges of Pharmacy and seven percent above the national average.

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