University of Charleston pharmacy school placed on probation

The University of Charleston School of Pharmacy has been placed on probation by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education because the school was found to be under-performing in five of its standards during a spring site visit by the agency.

The ACPE found UC’s school partially compliant in four areas and noncompliant in another, and has placed it on a two-year probationary status. According to UC President Ed Welch, the school’s pharmacy program still retains its accreditation, and the school, which was notified Thursday of the probation, already has begun the process of getting the probation lifted by 2015.

“The ACPE has gotten our attention to say that there are some issues they want us to address, and so we are busily addressing those issues,” Welch said.

The School of Pharmacy was found noncompliant with ACPE’s Standard No. 5, “College or School and University Relationship,” which outlines that an accredited school must be headed by a dean, must collaborate with the larger university, and must be autonomous. According to Welch, the ACPE found that the school’s undergraduate and graduate programs were not interconnected enough to meet the requirements of Standard No. 5.

“They don’t explicitly say, ‘Here’s what you must do, or you aren’t doing X’ with regard to Standard 5,” he said. “There are other standards that are more quantitative, so you know whether you made that benchmark, but with Standard 5, they give a more general conclusion and say, ‘We want evidence that you’re working on a tighter relationship.’ ”

Of the other four standards, with which the pharmacy school was found partially compliant, two were focused on staffing. The school had experienced a number of recent vacancies before the site visit, according to School of Pharmacy Dean Michelle Easton, but has made seven hires since March. There are four remaining positions, which the school has interviews scheduled for, she said. 

“In a short period of time, for various reasons, opportunities at other schools of pharmacy and in health care surfaced and caused a large number of vacancies,” Easton said. She said the problem in staffing is not with the quality of UC’s staff — the complaint from the ACPE was centered on quantity. UC pharmacy graduates have an average pass rate of 95 percent on the national licensing exam for pharmacists — above the national average, Welch said.

“None of the standards we’ve been cited for deal with the curriculum,” Welch said. “The 25 standards where we’re doing just fine deal with curriculum and what students are learning. We had a pass rate of 100 percent for 2013 graduates for the certifying exam.”

The other two guidelines the school was found partially compliant in were centered on continuing training, tenure for faculty and staff evaluations, as well as budgetary concerns. 

UC’s pharmacy program was accredited in 2010, coinciding with the graduation of its first class. The program has not been placed on probation before and, according to Welch, the ACPE has never revoked the accreditation of a school placed on probationary status. 

The university has held meetings on the issue, and Welch said a plan is in the works to rectify the problems the ACPE has identified. School officials plan to submit a report to the ACPE in October and hope to have all the issues resolved by January, in time for the next site visit.

“We are disappointed by the decision but remain proud of our student outcomes and curricular strength,” Welch said. “Our faculty are excellent and have worked diligently to be sure that student learning is strong, despite faculty turnover.” 

Reach Lydia Nuzum

at or 304-348-5189. 

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