Academic journal article Peer Review

Integrating Pharmacy and the Health Sciences with a Liberal Education

Academic journal article Peer Review

Integrating Pharmacy and the Health Sciences with a Liberal Education

Article excerpt

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has developed a twenty-first-century definition of liberal education that empowers students and prepares them to deal with complexity diversity and change. It is important to note that with this new definition, liberal education is not synonymous with an education just in the traditional liberal arts fields. A liberal education appropriate for those in arts, science, and professional fields is focused on the acquisition of knowledge, development of intellectual and practice skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative and applied learning methods.

According to AAC&U's LEAP initiative, liberal education in the twenty-first century should be focused on intellectual and personal development of all students so that they can be successful in a global economy and be part of an informed citizenry. That liberal education is obtained through studies that emphasize the Essential Learning Outcomes across the entire educational continuum - from school through college - at progressively higher levels of achievement. In the broadest sense this would imply the necessity to have this occur throughout the continuum of college - including in undergraduate, graduate, and professional education.

Some educators, especially in graduate and professional education, may assume that these goals only apply to an undergraduate education. As the dean of a college with a professional Doctor of Pharmacy program - a two-year undergraduate-level pre-pharmacy program followed by a four-year professional program - I would argue, instead that this philosophy of education is relevant at the graduate and undergraduate levels and across a wide currency of fields.The LEAP vision actually aligns almost uniformly with the Accreditation Council for Pharmaceutical Education's philosophy and emphasis as stated in the Accreditation Standards and Guidelines for the Professional Program in Pharmacy Leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree. Guidelines, Version 2.0 (effective February 14, 2011):

The standards and guidelines, taken together, have been refined to ensure the development of students who can contribute to the care of patients and to the profession by practicing with competence and confidence in collaboration with other health care providers. The revision has placed greater emphasis on the desired scientific foundation and practice competencies, the manner in which programs need to assess students' achievement of the competencies, and the importance of the development of the student as a professional and lifelong learner. The standards focus on the development of students' professional knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, as well as sound and reasoned judgment and the highest level of ethical behavior.

New evolutions in health professions education would support the need to incorporate the fundamentals of a liberal education into both undergraduate and professional programs. The Medical College Admission Test* (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination required for students interested in pursuing allopathic, osteopathic, podiatric, and veterinary medicine. The MCAT has been revised to give attention to the concepts that tomorrows' doctors will need. The change most relevant to this discussion is the inclusion of a new critical analysis and reasoning skills section. This section reflects that medical schools want well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds. Another example of this evolution was pioneered by Michael DeGroote Medical School at McMaster University in Canada. The Michael DeGroote Medical School implemented the multiple mini-interview (MMI) format modeled after the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) used for health professional licensing examinations in Canada and other countries. This approach allows for the testing of multiple domains such as oral communication skills, ethical decision making, problem solving, prioritization, and the ability to work in teams. …

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