OUR VIEW: Pharmacy school near Fresno is a good idea for area

December 11, 2012 

In the central San Joaquin Valley, we desperately need more health-care professionals, from doctors and nurses to workers in the many related fields. The demand for providers will only increase as baby boomers continue to consume health-care resources.

That's why the proposed pharmacy school in the Fresno area is welcome news. The job market nationally for pharmacists is forecast to grow by 25 percent, and the need could be even higher in the central San Joaquin Valley.

Last week, The Fresno Bee reported that a group of business leaders is planning the College of Pharmacy, with an expected opening in the fall of 2014. The Assemi family, which operates Granville Homes and other local businesses, is the key backer of the venture. The family has committed $20 million to the for-profit pharmacy school.

The plans are ambitious. The school would offer a four-year doctorate program in pharmacy, and graduate up to 80 new pharmacists annually. There is no doubt that this region needs pharmacists, as well as other trained medical professionals. If successful, the pharmacy school would give local students increased opportunities to go into this field without having to leave the region. The likelihood of keeping medical professionals here increases when we can train them in their communities.

The pharmacy proposal is slated to be the first of as many as five health-care colleges that the local business group is planning for our region. A major challenge is the high cost of providing quality training in various medical fields. The intense instruction needed in these programs will require substantial capital beyond the start-up funding.

It appears that the pharmacy school's leaders are bringing a diverse group of backers into the project. That should ensure a wise business plan. The governing board already includes Fresno State President John Welty and Fresno businessman Gerald Lyles, and the dean of the pharmacy school has been hired. That will be David Hawkins, former dean of California Northstate University College of Pharmacy in Sacramento.

The central San Joaquin Valley needs to provide more medical training at the regional level, especially as the health-care environment undergoes major changes.

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