Prescription for Success WNEU Prepares to Launch Pharmaceutical Business Major

Even as businesses of most kinds have struggled during the Great Recession, health care has continued to be a growth industry.

The pharmaceutical sector is no different, with growth projected at more than 6{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} over the next several years by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that growth is not only expected on the clinical side. Opportunities in pharmaceutical administration, finance, and sales and marketing, to name a few niches, promise similar growth.

For that reason, Western New England University will launch a new major in Pharmaceutical Business this fall. The multidisciplinary track integrates elements from the school’s pharmacy, health care, and business programs, preparing business students for careers in the growth industry of pharmaceuticals.

And, make no mistake, the major is targeted at business majors, not those seeking clinical health careers.

“It’s definitely students interested in business programs,” said Julie Siciliano, dean of the WNEU College of Business. “I think some business students see the advantage of a little specialization, of how an understanding of a specific industry can provide them with a nice entry into the job market. And jobs are what everyone is paying attention to these days.

“This program,” she added, “will help them better understand the fundamental areas of pharmacy, aside from the clinical aspects of evaluating the patient, patient management, and health care delivery.”

The major also prepares students for work on the business side of biotechnology and medical diagnostic devices, she added.

“We’re focusing on where the jobs are,” Siciliano told HCN. “In this area, in the Northeast, we’ve got quite a few medical device manufacturers. We’re seeing that this major would also be good preparation for those who might want to go into the distribution or wholesaler aspect of the business, as well as the sales and marketing positions. Again, we’re providing extra expertise in addition to the basic business degree.”

Good Medicine

The demand for pharmacy professionals begins with a shortage of pharmacists, and growing opportunity in that field, which WNEU addressed when it opened its School of Pharmacy in 2010.

According to the American Assoc. for Colleges of Pharmacy, a variety of changing demographics and social and health issues will pose new challenges and opportunities in the pharmaceutical world. These factors include:

  • Increases in average life span and the increased incidence of chronic diseases;
  • The increased complexity, number, and sophistication of medications and related products and devices;
  • The increased emphasis on primary and preventive health services, home health care, and long-term care; and
  • Concerns about improving patients’ access to health care, controlling its cost, and assuring its quality.

In fact, according to a report by the Pharmacy Manpower Project Inc., a shortfall of 157,000 pharmacists is expected by 2020.

“While the overall supply of pharmacists has increased in the past decade, there has been an unprecedented demand for pharmacists and for pharmaceutical care services, which has not been met by the currently available supply,” the report says.

Those opportunities are expected to be reflected on the non-clinical side of the sector as well, with job growth in pharmaceutical sales and marketing alone expected to approach 30{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} over just the next three years, according to government forecasts, Siciliano said.

“This major allows for interdisciplinary opportunities,” she noted. “Given our structure here at the university and our small size, the faculty were able to collaborate to create this major. We thought this was something students would want.

“So, on one hand, students are still getting the full-blown business degree, but this has courses specializing in the pharmaceutical industry, drawing upon some of the expertise out of our pharmacy school. There’s a nice course, where professors come over and provide a survey of various aspects of pharmacy. There are a variety of pieces.”

The new business/pharmacy track also requires more science courses than business students are normally required to tackle.

“All college business students take two science cources, but this program has four course requirements in science, areas like biology and chemistry,” Siciliano said. “The faculty are developing some extra courses, things like human organ systems, diseases and therapies, cancer and the immune system, and human reproduction. This really allows for collaboration between the two schools.”

Come Together

This isn’t the first time WNEC has combined a business degree with a health-related field, however. The college’s general business major previously added a health care administration concentration for students interested in a career in the business side of the medical field, such as the administration of a hospital or other health care provider.

“They get to pick a few more options and gain a basic understanding of the business components of any administrative area of a hospital or another provider environment, anything involving the business aspect,” Siciliano said. “They pick from a variety of courses, whether it’s psychology, social work, or another area, providing them with a little more industry-specific knowledge and, of course, an internship.”

The College of Business has also partnered with the College of Pharmacy to offer a joint degree program, where students can earn their doctor of Pharmacy and their MBA at the same time. Candidates can apply for the program following the completion of their first semester in the College of Pharmacy.

“We offer a PharmD/MBA combination without any additional time on campus,” she told HCN. “Just as the JD/MBA has become popular [for those interested in business law], the PharmD/MBA is becoming more popular across the country.”

Those types of programs, Siciliano re-emphasized are important particularly in a tough economy, because they give students a leg up on generalists when competing for particular career opportunities.

“It’s the kind of thing students are interested in, and their parents are interested in, of course,” she noted. “It works out really nicely because our structure is so unique. The thing with us is, our size is small, so our faculty are able to collaborate in such a way. The more of that we do, the better off we are. It provides students with a great opportunity that sometimes you miss at larger universities.”