Meet the founding dean of the new Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy at HPU

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- He’s the head of a brand new school that’s training students to do things that may one day save your life. It’s the nation’s 135th, North Carolina’s fourth and the Piedmont Triad’s first pharmacy school.

The inaugural class of 40 students arrived at the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy at High Point University in August.

At this point, all of their lab work’s taking place in a retrofitted former bank branch building outside Oak Hollow Mall. It’s a temporary space until the entire pharmacy school moves into the university’s $60 million health sciences building next spring.

Dr. Ronald Ragan is the school’s founding dean. “[The students] come from all over. Interestingly, a large percent came from right here in North Carolina,” he told me recently.

When they complete this four-year program, each will have a doctor of pharmacy degree -- a degree all new pharmacists in the United States must have to become licensed.

Dr. Ragan told me practical experience is what sets HPU’s program apart from all others.

“We have loaded throughout the program numerous experiences for students to interact with patients, both real patients and actor portrayals of patients,” he said.

In terms of where we’ll go to encounter these students and their pharmacy colleagues, Dr. Ragan says the rapid change we’ve seen in the industry will continue.

“Do I see the community pharmacies going away? I really don’t.”

But there has been a lot of consolidation among the chain pharmacies in recent years. You can also find a pharmacy in just about every big box store or supermarket.

“I think the next area where we’re going to see a lot of growth is in the medical practices," he told me. “You’ve got a pharmacist in a practice run by a physician with some extenders and maybe some ancillary support help, but the pharmacist bringing that drug therapy piece to the group at the point of care.”

In the meantime, Dr. Ragan says High Point University will have to prepare these students to handle all things pharmacy, to work in different environments and to connect with the people they serve.

“Before they even started classes [the students] had conducted almost 200 hours of community service. That’s part of what we do as a profession. We go out into our community and we help people understand their medications, health care in general, “ he said. “You know, our product isn’t only the tablets in that vial.”

For more information on the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy at High Point University, click here.