College of Pharmacy’s Dean Speedie steps down as College reaches 2nd in the Nation

April 5, 2016

A lot can change in twenty years. From a program shift to a doctoral degree, to an addition of another location in Duluth, Dean Marilyn Speedie has been with the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy through a wide range of exciting moments. As she prepares to step down as dean in early 2017 and transition to a faculty appointment, Speedie is leaving the College of Pharmacy better than when she started. In fact, the school was just ranked the number 2 Pharmacy school in the country by US News and World Report.

We sat down with Speedie to ask her about her time here in the College of Pharmacy and how it will continue to move forward and serve the needs of Minnesota.

You first joined the College of Pharmacy in 1996. What’s changed in the past 20 years to account for the most recent #2 position? 

The college has made tremendous strides over the past 20 years in improving all areas of our mission — education, research and service. This has been done through moving from offering a bachelor’s of science in pharmacy to the more-comprehensive doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree (today the national standard), to increasing our number of faculty from 35 to 105, and growing the college’s research productivity almost ten-fold in funding. Also, through our expansion to the Duluth campus in 2003, we increased the number of pharmacists we graduate by 50 percent, which helped solve the then-serious pharmacist shortage in the state.

How are Minnesotans impacted by having the #2 pharmacy school in the nation in their state?

Minnesotans benefit by having the best-trained pharmacists on their health care teams. Our faculty and graduates prevent disease and improve outcomes of the use of medications to treat disease. This is especially important at a time when the aging population is requiring the use of more and more medications, and health systems are recognizing the value a pharmacist can bring to the health care team.

Our ranking reflects the outstanding education and training we provide to the next generation of pharmacists, the majority of whom remain in Minnesota after graduation. As the only pharmacy school in the state, it is our mission to engage in cutting-edge research and lead practice development to improve the health of the people of Minnesota.

Additionally, our high ranking reflects the cutting-edge research of our faculty in areas like cancer, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and more.

How have the methods or techniques used at UMN to teach and train pharmacy students evolved over the years?

The college has a history of being a leader in advancing pharmacy education and practice. The college was one of the national leaders in the development of the clinical component of pharmacy education and had its first doctor of pharmacy graduates in 1973 — this was in contrast to the standard at the time of pharmacists needing a bachelor’s education to practice.

Several years ago we anticipated there would be a shift in the profession away from positions in which dispensing is a predominant function. That’s why we have designed and implemented a new curriculum that focuses on preparing generalist pharmacy practitioners to work in today’s interprofessional health care teams. This is done through interprofessional education in which our students train with other health professional students, including those from nursing, medicine, dentistry and others. This is quite different than how pharmacists have been trained in the past.

Today our pharmacy education has a large focus on providing patient care and giving students hands-on experiences and training, starting with the very first year of their four-year PharmD education. This is done with our practitioner partners in the community. Our college has worked hard to establish relationships with practitioners around the state to develop a large network of experiential education sites that offer opportunities for our students to provide medication management and other patient care versus traditional dispensing positions.

Where do you see the pharmacy profession headed in the next 20 years? What’s next for the UMN College of Pharmacy?

There is always more work to do. Currently we are working to incorporate pharmacists and pharmacies into mental health care. We are excited about working with underserved communities, both in rural and urban areas, to increase their access to outstanding health care, including medication management. As needs arise, you can be assured we will be there with innovative and interprofessional approaches to care.