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New dual degree program aims to prep pharmacists for global health challenges

The curriculum addresses the need for clinicians who can analyze the impact of pharmaceuticals in developing countries.

USC is currently enrolling its first class of students in the Doctor of Pharmacy/MS Global Medicine (PharmD/MSGM) dual degree program that will graduate pharmacy professionals with an advanced understanding of the role of modern medicine and the provision of care in developing countries worldwide.

The program was developed by leaders at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC School of Pharmacy to respond to the need for pharmacists and global health leaders who will effectively serve diverse populations through pharmaceutical care. The curriculum specifically addresses the urgent need for clinicians capable of analyzing and understanding the impact and use of pharmaceuticals in developing countries with populations that are often greatly underserved in health care.

“Our pharmacy curriculum provides the expertise required of today’s pharmacist in pharmacotherapy, medication safety, health promotion and disease prevention,” said Ronald Alkana, associate dean for graduate affairs and interdisciplinary graduate programs at the School of Pharmacy. “Complementing it with the global medicine program allows us to produce 21st-century pharmacists with a unique global perspective.”

The USC Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum is a four-year, postgraduate professional program that culminates with a final year of experiential training. The Global Medicine program examines the effects of disease around the world, as well as the development of innovative solutions for addressing accompanying health and social issues to prevent global health crises. The program offers students opportunities to travel abroad to see firsthand health challenges and delivery-of-care models in other parts of the world.

The School of Pharmacy is a nationally recognized leader in providing clinical pharmacy services to patients in underserved communities in Southern California, having garnered the American Pharmacists Association Foundation Pinnacle Award and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Transformative Community Service Award for the care it has provided in safety-net clinics. In addition, the school has been instrumental in developing the pharmacist as the medication expert on today’s health care team, working with patients in managing medication therapy to optimize health outcomes.

“The USC School of Pharmacy has developed pharmacy education and community intervention programs for underserved and resource-poor areas of our local community, so applying similar innovations in care at the global level seemed like the next logical step,” said Elahe Nezami, director of the Global Medicine program at the Keck School. “Both of our programs encourage entrepreneurial thinking in developing new approaches to solving difficult health problems, so interdisciplinary collaboration is a great way to capitalize on the talents and ideas of our students and faculty.”

The Keck School’s Master of Science in Global Medicine program is designed to answer the urgent, worldwide need for professional training in concepts of global medicine. Students in this program can acquire the strong medical science foundation needed to analyze, understand and solve worldwide health issues. Program study emphasizes methods used in addressing global diseases and finding innovative new solutions for preventing global health crises. With opportunities to study outside the United States and instruction from the Keck School faculty, the Global Medicine program offers students preparation for careers in global health care.

While students must meet admissions standards of both programs individually, once admitted, they enroll in a specialized curriculum that allows them to use core pharmacy course work in place of core global medicine course work. This allows students to complete the dual degree program more efficiently than pursuing the two degrees independently.

PharmD/MSGM students complete the requirements of both programs, acquiring the scientific knowledge and training to be adept pharmacists while simultaneously gaining an understanding of the global burden of disease and the cultural and socioeconomic factors affecting the health of individuals and communities. For more information about the dual degree program, visit 

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