Wichita pharmacy school set to open

Ken Audus can cross one thing off his goal list.

On Monday, the dean of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy will see his school's Wichita branch begin training its first 20 students.

"I've been working on this since I started (as dean) seven years ago," Audus said.

The pharmacy school is on the campus of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, 1010 N. Kansas.

It was a nearly $6 million project — $4.5 million for the building and equipment and more than $1 million for personnel and other expenses — to get to this point, Audus said.

It is the only branch of the pharmacy school, which is based at KU's Lawrence campus.

The school will accept 20 new students each year through 2014. After that, it could see class sizes increase to as many as 40 students a year.

"We do have capacity for 40," Audus said. "We wanted to take a smaller class to get started, mainly to make sure we have all the bugs and glitches taken out."

Nine of the first students are from Wichita. The others are from Andover, Altamont, Assaria, Cimarron, Derby, Ellsworth, Great Bend, Haven, Manhattan, Minneapolis and Olathe.

Audus said the school gets between 350 and 400 applications a year for what is now 170 student positions: 150 in Lawrence and 20 in Wichita.

During their four years of training, pharmacy students will be exposed to all facets of pharmacy practice: in retail, hospitals and long-term care facilities and at compounding pharmacies, in towns and cities big and small.

"We try to spread them across the state ... so they get an experience in a small town and in a city," Audus said.

Students who are accepted into the program have to have a minimum of two years of pre-pharmacy education from a community college or university, including classes in microbiology and chemistry. A bachelor's degree is not a requirement yet, Audus said. But he thinks it will be in a matter of a few years.

There is a strong need for rural pharmacists in Kansas. According to the school, six Kansas counties have no pharmacy, and 30 counties have just one pharmacy.

The opening of a Wichita school should help alleviate the state's shortage of pharmacists, Audus said.

The Wichita school will be overseen by Robert Emerson, associate dean at the KU School of Pharmacy.