Belmont may be known primarily for its music business school, but the university is quickly attempting to establish itself as a center for medical training. The latest expansion of its health care programs – including physical therapy, occupational therapy and nursing – comes in the form of a school of pharmacy, set to open in the 2008-09 school year.
Belmont isn’t the only university to institute a pharmacy program, however. When the school opens, it will be the third new pharmacy program in the Middle Tennessee area. Cross-boulevard rival Lipscomb University and Union University in Jackson, Tenn., both plan to open similar programs in the same time period. Both of these programs, as well as East Tennessee State University’s program, which started in January 2007, likely will vie for prospective students in direct competition with Belmont.
According to Belmont’s initial announcement, projections indicate 1,060 new pharmacy positions will be needed in Tennessee alone; there will be an expected shortage of 157,000 nationwide by 2020.
But despite this, some have seen the increase as possible oversaturation.
Jennifer Athay, associate director of student development with the American Pharmacists Association, was quoted in wire service reports saying, “I know there have been some discussions within the pharmacy profession about, ‘OK. When is it going to be too much?’”
Although the pharmacy school has been formally announced, little is known about how it will operate. It has been described as a four-year graduate studies program, but the university has not established a curriculum, and five of the seven jobs that have been advertised in higher education listings since Dec. 1 remain active. The position of founding dean is no longer listed among the openings, but the university has not revealed if the post has been filled. These and other details are expected to be finalized closer to the scheduled opening.
In recent years, Belmont has focused heavily on expanding its health care facilities. The Gordon E. Inman Health Services Building was opened in August 2006 after a similar situation was brought to light. A nurse shortage in Tennessee caused the university to establish a “fast track” program for nursing student graduates.