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USM and UNE collaborating on new pathway for students to careers in Pharmacy

The University of Southern Maine and the University of New England have agreed to a partnership that simplifies and streamlines the degree path for USM Biology graduates to enter UNE's College of Pharmacy.

USM Presidents Glenn Cummings and UNE President James D. Herbert formally signed the articulation agreement on Feb. 21, creating both a 4+4 Program for USM biology degree holders to pursue their Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UNE and an accelerated 2+4 Program, which would allow some USM students to enter the Doctor of Pharmacy program after only two intensive years of study at USM.

"For Maine, the benefit is a growing and knowledgeable workforce to help people heal and to help people feel better during difficult physical times," USM President Cummings said. "At the same time, we're assuring an even greater level of quality and affordability for our students."

UNE President Herbert also praised the agreement

"Pharmacists help to further the health of individuals and communities, and this is something that's really core to our mission at UNE, and it's something we share with our friends at USM," Herbert said. "Maine is an aging and rural state, and we need all the help we can get in expanding the healthcare workforce."

The formal signing took place in the College of Pharmacy building on UNE's Portland Campus. It came just one month after a similar agreement was signed, creating a pathway for UNE Marine Affairs students to enroll at the University of Maine School of Law. The law school is located on the Portland Campus of USM.

Helping all students succeed — rather than debating public versus private education — needs to be the goal, Cummings said.

"We're tearing down barriers and we're saying, 'Let's make a smooth transition from one school to the next," he said.

USM biology student Lilia Brooks said she hoped to be one of the first USM students in the new program. She began college with the goal of becoming a nurse. Then, her older brother, a medical student, suggested pharmacy. As she learned, she quickly loved the chemistry and the approach to helping people.

She was also inspired by illness in her own family. Her father was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. She immediately became fascinated by his medicines and how they were used to treat him. She may want to research new drug therapies, she said.

"(His illness) really made it a stronger desire to pursue this as a profession," Brooks said. She plans to enter UNE in the fall of 2019.

It's a transition that both schools have been working on for a decade, since USM started teaching pre-pharmacy courses within the Biology Program, said Christine Maher, a professor of Biology and the Associate Dean of the College of Science, Technology and Health at USM.

"This agreement really represents the next step in a relationship that's been going on for a while between the sciences at USM and the College of Pharmacy at UNE," Maher said. "We look forward to helping students take advantage of this amazing program."

Story by Dan Hartill, Photos by Alan Bennett // Office of Public Affairs