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Officials say location not a problem for pharmacy school

Some students taking classes at USF’s new pharmacy school, which is set to open next year, may not be in the same room as their professors. That’s because lessons will be taught through methods like video conferencing.

Instead of being housed at USF Health, which the program will be run under, the school will be at the University’s Polytechnic campus in Lakeland – about 42 minutes and 38.12 miles from Tampa, according to MapQuest.

But the location is meant to “create a new campus,” said university spokesman Michael Hoad.

Kevin Sneed, who was appointed dean of the pharmacy school in November, doesn’t think the location will deter students from entering the program.

“Nobody is really talking about the fact that UCF is starting a medical school over 20 miles away from their main campus and they’re going to have faculty from their main campus instructing,” said Sneed, who is also the associate professor of family medicine and assistant dean and clinical director of USF’s College of Medicine’s Division of Clinical Pharmacy. “The distance is not a big issue. Right now we’re talking about a half-hour drive.”

Until a new building is constructed, the school will use existing facilities on the USF Tampa campus, he said.

Then, the University will hire professors to take on a bulk of the teaching at the school.

“We will be hiring a vast majority of our own professors but will integrate with other experts in the area,” he said. “It would be crazy for me to not tap into that and invite them to provide a high level of instruction to our students, no matter where they are.”

A majority of the program will be completed through clinical rotations, in which students will receive hands-on training in Bay area hospitals, Sneed said.

“I think people are getting confused because it’s not confined to a classroom. This is a professional program just like the (College of) Medicine,” he said. “You won’t spend your entire life in a classroom and then wake up one day and have a degree. We’re going to be out in the community. We’re going to be seeing patients … we’re going to be all over the place.”

A bill passed by the Florida Senate on April 1 allocated $10 million to establish the program, with an additional $35 million for building the school near Interstate 4.

“If taxpayers are going to put any dollars into a pharmacy program in the state of Florida, the only reasonable and logical location for that program would be right here at the University of South Florida,” he said. “With the Bay area, this entire region being heavily populated, far more populated then Gainesville or Tallahassee, it makes more sense to make sure we had a brand new program.”

Lakeland has always been considered as a location to house the pharmacy school, for which planning began as early as 2005, Sneed said.

An amendment proposed by Sen. J. D. Alexander, author of the Senate’s budget, was added to the bill earlier this month that specified the program be located on the Lakeland campus.

Hoad said the University requested Alexander to add the amendment.

Sneed said the media and public have overestimated the importance of the location of the school.

“A building is not going to make this program. People are going to make this program,” he said. “I think students that want a top quality pharmacy education will do what is necessary.”