A dual-degree program combining a doctorate in pharmacy with a medical degree has been developed by Rutgers University's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.
The schools, part of the new Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, will launch the new PharmD/MD program within the next year. Health-care education professionals believe that this program will be the first of its kind and could become a model to better prepare the experts who will drive national health-care policy in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.
The 10-year program, available only to students enrolled in the PharmD program at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, will integrate core instruction in basic and clinical sciences with clinical clerkships and rotations, to train healthcare professionals as leaders in policy, research, and clinical settings, according to Peter S. Amenta, dean, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The program will enable students to obtain a more complete understanding of both the diagnostic and treatment sides of health care, toward an ultimate goal of more comprehensive patient care.
"This new program builds on an established foundation of collaboration between our two institutions, and we are particularly indebted to pharmacy Acting Dean Joseph Barone for devising and bringing it to fruition," Amenta says. "We are pleased to be able to enrich the education of future generations of medical students in a way that has not been available before. The dual degree offers the unique opportunity to integrate the perspectives of pharmacists and physicians in a way that has the capacity to inform health care advances on a national level. It is also reflective of a growing trend toward interdisclipinary collaborations in medicine as a whole."
The program will train an elite cadre of interdisciplinary practitioners and clinicians, while respecting the history and missions of medicine and pharmacy, says Joseph A. Barone, professor and acting dean, Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.
Historically, there has been a precedent for the pharmacy school's alumni opting to continue their training at medical school, including Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Barone notes.
"Creating this formal arrangement solidifies our commitment to educating an individual fully skilled in both professions," he says, explaining that the resultant training has benefits not only with regard to producing highly skilled educators and researchers with the capability to conduct research at a higher level, but also with respect to changing health care policy. "Health care policy is becoming increasingly complicated, a lot of it being driven by a clear mandate for interdisciplinary care. Somebody with this type of training has the interdisciplinary background that can help them develop a much greater depth of understanding of health care policy issues and, in fact, to be able to help craft national health care policy in a meaningful way."
Introducing the dual degree now is particularly significant, notes Christopher Molloy, interim chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, given the major health care changes anticipated in the near future and the need for a deeper understanding of individual drugs among health care providers.