Appalachian College of Pharmacy Receives Approvals to Offer Doctor of Public Health Degree

OAKWOOD, VA (APRIL 11, 2024) – The Appalachian College of Pharmacy (ACP) has been granted the necessary approvals to begin offering a Doctor of Public Health degree beginning in the fall of 2024.

Both the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) recently granted their approvals for ACP to add a course of study leading to a Doctor of Public Health degree.

ACP currently offers a traditional pharmacy school program which has been compacted into three years by offering classes year-round in order to save students significant time and expense. ACP continues to offer Virginia’s only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program. 

Applications for the new Doctor of Public Health program will be accepted later this spring, with the first class of students expected in late summer.

The approvals by SCHEV and SACSCOC followed an application filed by ACP for substantive change to offer the new degree and the ensuing review process.

“This is a major milestone for the Appalachian College of Pharmacy,” ACP Provost and Dean Susan Mayhew said of the SCHEV and SACSCOC approvals. “This is really exciting because our accelerated PharmD program allows ACP students an opportunity to obtain two doctorate-level degrees in about the same timeframe that a traditional degree in pharmacy takes from our regional competitors. 

“The add-on DrPH degree complements the PharmD degree very well and will open up a broader range of career opportunities for pharmacists.” Mayhew added. “I expect that this will be the case for other health professionals such as physicians and doctors of nursing as well.”   

The process marks one of the first formal collaborations between ACP and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) stemming from a June 2020 agreement between ACP and the Harvey W. Peters Research Foundation, of Roanoke, the single member of VCOM in Blacksburg, which then resulted in ACP and VCOM becoming sister institutions. Under the terms of the agreement which made ACP and VCOM sister institutions, the Harvey W. Peters Research Foundation agreed to provide $5 million to ACP for the purposes of establishing the new Doctor of Public Health program and other new programs; and to build a new laboratory at Oakwood.

The new Doctor of Public Health program will primarily be an online offering with a research component related to public health or global health. An in-person practicum will also be part of the program that will be open to applicants with a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree or equivalent degree from a regionally or nationally accredited institution; or to individuals graduated from or currently enrolled in health professions doctoral degree programs such as pharmacy and medicine.

“While this degree is offered through ACP, faculty for the program will primarily consist of current ACP and VCOM faculty members,” Mayhew said. “Faculty and alumni of ACP and VCOM are also eligible and encouraged to apply for admission to the program.”

The program curriculum consists of 46 semester credit hours spanning consecutive terms and includes foundational, specialized and elective courses, as well as courses in applied research and writing and practical experience. Mayhew noted the new program can be completed in as little as a year’s time, but because of the online nature of the program, students have the flexibility to complete the degree on their own timelines.

ACP President Mickey McGlothlin said the offering of the Doctor of Public Health degree is one more step toward enhancing the ability of ACP to fulfill its mission. The college’s mission is to improve the general health and well-being of rural or underserved populations, particularly vulnerable populations within central Appalachia by educating pharmacists who embrace knowledge and technology to optimize pharmacists-delivered patient care and health outcomes in an interdisciplinary health care environment. 

Dr. Jim Florence, ACP dean of the department of public health, agreed the new program of study will serve to enhance ACP’s mission.

“The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is excited to offer this new interprofessional doctorate in public health leadership,” Florence said. “This new degree will focus on disease prevention and health promotion and advances the mission of ACP to see improved health outcomes at the community level, especially among rural and medically underserved populations.

“We are proud to cooperate in this program with our sister institution, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, whose mission is similar,” Florence continued. “Community-based pharmacists and medical professionals have always sought the good of the patients they serve and the communities in which they live. This degree offers them additional skills and tools in public health leadership to enhance their effectiveness in population health.”

The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is the only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Founded in 2003, the college accepted its first students in 2005. It is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its mission is to cultivate a learning community committed to education, community outreach and the professional development of pharmacists. Its graduate pharmacists are now practicing throughout the United States.

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