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Interview: Hieu Tran, PharmD [Pharmacy School Dean]

Created May 29, 2007 by Anna Peck and Sarah M. Lawrence
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Hieu Tran, PharmD

Dr. Hieu Tran is the dean of the new Sullivan University College of Pharmacy in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Tran has been involved in the organization of three new colleges of pharmacy, first as a faculty member, then a department chair and now as founding dean at Sullivan.

SDN administrators Sarah M. Lawrence and Anna Peck had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Tran to discuss his career, the process of opening a new college of pharmacy and pharmacy school admissions.

SDN: What attracted you to the field of pharmacy initially?

HT: I knew several people who were practicing pharmacists and that sparked my interest. I was attracted to both the scientific and personal aspects of the profession. When I was a young pharmacy student I dreamed of opening my own corner pharmacy and providing personal care and service to patients. My career has gone in a different direction, but I still enjoy the interpersonal interaction I get from my work in pharmacy.

SDN: In what areas of pharmacy have you practiced and for how long?

HT: I have worked in the profession for 18 years. My practice has always incorporated clinical practice, academia and research. I like combining all three areas of practice because it keeps things interesting and helps me maintain an active knowledge base. My area of specialization is ICU/CCU pharmacy with a practice in Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Nutrition.

SDN: How does your position at Sullivan fit into your career thus far?

HT: Being the founding dean of the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy is the culmination of my career thus far. It represents a professional maturation and gives me the opportunity to put to use the experiences that I have gathered over the years to help preparing the next generation of pharmacists and the profession.

SDN: Tell us about the other pharmacy schools you helped found and how those experiences are helping you at Sullivan.

HT: I have been involved in the founding of three pharmacy schools, in different roles each time. Therefore, I understand what my colleagues on the faculty and in administration are experiencing during this process. As a faculty member, helping to found a college of pharmacy at Wilkes University, I gained experience in the accreditation process from a faculty perspective. I learned that flexibility and teamwork are important. I also learned the importance of looking for mentors such as the department chair to help integrate oneself into the academic environment. At LECOM, I was founding department chair and I learned how to set up and implement my vision for my department, mentor junior faculty, shape the curriculum, and familiarize myself with the accreditation process. Now as Founding Dean, I am responsible for building a superior program of pharmacy for our students, meeting the requirements for a successful accreditation, representing the College in the community and the profession and balancing the demands of faculty, administration and students while staying true to the overall mission and purpose of the College.

SDN: What about the process of founding a new program appeals most to you?

HT: I like the idea of designing a program from scratch and the challenge that doing this presents. I look forward to the satisfaction of seeing it all come together.

SDN: What is the mission of the College of Pharmacy at Sullivan University?

HT: The Mission of the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy is to prepare General Practitioners and Clinical Scientists who will be able to:

  • Provide outstanding, ethical, and empathetic pharmacy care
  • Serve the health care needs of the community, a diverse population, and the individual patient
  • Expand the scope of practice of pharmacy in community settings, hospitals, managed care facilities, and government agencies
  • Be compassionate patient advocates and leaders in their communities, professional associations, and scholarly research

SDN: How will the PharmD program be organized?

HT: The program will be three calendar years, with each year divided into four quarters of 11 weeks each. We will follow a four days per week class schedule. Our experiential program will be 50 weeks long. During second year students will complete a 10-week clinical rotation in a practice site such as a hospital. Third year students will participate in 8 five-week rotations. Students will receive intensive preparation for the board exam through both classroom and clinical activities.

SDN: What will be unique about your program?

HT: Our four day class schedule is unique among pharmacy schools. Students will be in classes Monday – Thursday with Wednesday morning reserved for student activities. Although Friday will not be a formal class day, it will be available for additional instruction for students who need it or for professional activities such as speakers and shadowing. Our curriculum will prepare students for the next generation of practice, including biotechnology, genomics, medical informatics and medication therapy management. Our program will be very student-centered and will incorporate evidenced based teaching. We hope to move away from a traditional lecture format and use a more interactive approach to teaching.

SDN: How has the process of opening a new college of pharmacy changed under the ACPE’s revised guidelines?

HT: New colleges of pharmacy are required to obtain pre-candidate status from ACPE before matriculating the first class of PharmD students. Designing a good experiential program is a critical part of the accreditation process, as is assessment and outcomes management. This is a good development because it builds more accountability into the process.

SDN: How have these changes most affected the process of founding the new college at Sullivan?

HT: These changes are positive ones for the process. For new colleges, the amount of work is the same but the stress level is perhaps a little higher.

SDN: What are the implications for students attending a new college of pharmacy that is in the midst of the accreditation process?

HT: There is always some risk in choosing to attend a school that is in the process of becoming accredited. I hope that my record of success in gaining accreditation for two other pharmacy programs will reassure students. I will accept no short-cuts in this process. I am committed to ensuring a good learning experience for students. This includes developing an excellent curriculum, providing quality experiential education, and obtaining adequate funding to support our activities. We also have a great team in place, with 15/15 new faculty hired. I am confident in our ability to provide students with an outstanding educational experience.

SDN: When will the first students attend Sullivan’s College of Pharmacy?

HT: The plan is to enroll the first class starting in July of 2008.

SDN: Will Sullivan be participating in PharmCAS?

HT: Our participation in PharmCAS is pending. The logistics of founding a new school make it difficult to join PharmCAS at the beginning. We definitely intend to explore it at a later date.

SDN: Where will the College be located? What type of facilities do you have planned?

HT: We will be located across from the Main campus on Gardiner Lane, Louisville, on a 5.6 acres in an 80,000 sq. ft. building. Our facilities will have everything one would expect in terms of classrooms and offices plus space for research labs. We will have modern facilities for compounding, a model pharmacy, IV room, and a counseling lab with closed circuit television. There will be room for expansion as our needs grow.

SDN: What type of student are you seeking for the inaugural class?

HT: We are looking for dedicated, hardworking, professional people who meet our admission criteria and have good people skills. I want to enroll students who are driven, energetic and welcome the challenge of pharmacy practice in a new century. I do not expect students to have a perfect academic record, but I would like to see evidence of progression, growth and improvement.

SDN: What factors should a prospective student consider when choosing a pharmacy school?

HT: Students should consider the location of the programs they are considering. It may be better to attend a local school and save money than to attend a more prestigious “name” school that is located elsewhere. Besides location, students should consider the philosophy and vision of the dean, administration and faculty. The quality of the program, both didactic and experiential is a critical factor to consider as well.

SDN: What steps do you recommend that prospective students take to prepare for admissions interviews?

HT: I suggest that students contact their schools of interest and talk with professional or senior students as well as faculty and staff. Find out about the program and get to know the school. Look into the curriculum and the philosophy of the school, so you can evaluate whether it is a good fit for you. Talk to practicing pharmacists and develop a list of questions that you would like to ask. Most of all, start early!

SDN: What do you feel are the best predictors of how students will perform in pharmacy school?

HT: Students who are engaged and hardworking have a natural advantage in the demanding professional school environment. Many focus on GPA and PCAT scores as predictors of success but I think the linkage is less important than previously thought. I want to see students who are enthusiastic about group projects, and want to do professional activities such as conferences to help in developing themselves. Most of all, students should be willing to put in the study time that is needed to excel in the classroom, probably 2-3 hours of studying per hour of classroom instruction.

SDN: How can students get more information about the school?

HT: I encourage you to call or email us. We look forward to hearing from potential students. Please visit our webpage at: http://library.sullivan.edu/pharmacy/default.htm for even more information.
You may also contact us at (502) 456-0045. Students may email me at htran -at- sullivan.edu, my assistant Sara Wade (swade -at- sullivan.edu) or our new dean of student affairs Frank Facione (ffacione -at- sullivan.edu).

SDN: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself or about the new Sullivan University College of Pharmacy?

HT: I hope that students considering our program will evaluate the strengths of our planned program. We are committed to our community and the profession. We have assembled a good core team to get the program started and our core faculty has an impressive record of success. Our philosophy is that any student accepted to Sullivan University College of Pharmacy will be supported through to a successful graduation. We aim for no attrition. That is my commitment. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our program and philosophy with you.

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