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Bursting at the seams

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s ambitious plans to double its enrollment in the next decade are stymied by one critical issue — space.

There is virtually no more physical space at the state’s only pharmacy school, situated on the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s West Baltimore medical campus, according to university officials.

“We are bursting at the seams in this building,” said David S. Roffman, associate dean for academic affairs.

Largely due to space constraints, the school is able to admit just 120 of the 1,400 prospective students who apply each year.

School officials have been advised that adding space is necessary to maintain the program’s accreditation, according to William J. Cooper, associate dean for administration and finance.

And the problem is exacerbated by a growing shortage of pharmacists and the resulting demand for more pharmacy school graduates.

The school’s 10-year initiative includes plans for the construction of a $44 million addition. The new building, to be located immediately adjacent to the existing North Pine Street facility, would virtually double the school’s current 47,000 square feet. It would accommodate up to 200 additional students.

In last year’s General Assembly session, the school got $2.2 million in planning funds for the building for fiscal 2007.

But the more than $3 million in planning money that was proposed for fiscal 2008 is among 16 university system projects that lawmakers have chosen to defer for one year.

Pharmacy school officials just unveiled plans to expand next fall to the university’s Shady Grove campus in Montgomery County, adding 40 students there. The leadership also envisions a third campus in a rural area, perhaps Frederick or the Eastern Shore, in the next 10 years.

The school also gradually will add 24 faculty members to teach those students, officials said. The faculty members will require space on the main Baltimore campus, as many of the classes will be recorded in Baltimore and then broadcast to Montgomery County students.

But the satellite campus alone cannot satisfy a growing demand for graduates, officials said.

Dean David A. Knapp has published a study reporting that by 2020 the nation will require more than 417,000 pharmacists, but will have available only 260,000.

At the moment, the school’s 120 annual graduates are satisfying less than half the state’s need for pharmacists each year, Roffman said.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission last week approved the College of Notre Dame of Maryland’s bid to open the state’s second pharmacy school, beginning in 2008. But the first 65 students won’t enter the work force until they complete the four-year program in 2013.

“I think we could support a third school of pharmacy” in the state, said Cooper.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents has placed the Pharmacy Hall Addition, as the planned facility has come to be known, at the top of its queue of construction projects.

The school is scheduled to take its selection for an architect for the new facility before the Board of Public Works in April, Cooper said. But with next fiscal year’s planning money seemingly on the cutting room floor in Annapolis, the project’s future is uncertain.

Knapp said he has not given up on the funding this session.

“We are working very hard to make the case that those planning funds ought to be restored,” he said.

Further complicating the issue is the dean’s recent resignation after 18 years, effective June 30. A successor has not been announced.

“I certainly am quite confident” the vision for future expansion will be fulfilled, even under new leadership, Knapp said.

(Above – University of Maryland School of Pharmacy students had to set up extra chairs along the back wall of a lecture hall last week. Largely because of space restraints, the school is able to admit just 120 students each year.)