Author: Dr. Jonathan Sheng

This summer, the School of Pharmacy at American University of Health Sciences successfully completed its first academic year. Its inaugural Doctor of Pharmacy class, the class of 2022, have fulfilled all their first year (P1)’s academic requirements and entered their second-year (P2)’s training. A major portion of the second-year Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum at American University of Health Sciences is an integrated therapeutic course series, which consists of nine individual integrated therapeutic courses themed by human physiological systems:

CS 851 Integrated Pharmacotherapy I-Fluids Electrolytes and Hematology with Lab
CS 852 Integrated Pharmacotherapy II-Cardiology with Lab
CS 861 Integrated Pharmacotherapy III-Pulmonary and Nephrology with Lab
CS 862 Integrated Pharmacotherapy IV-Gastroenterology and Endocrinology with Lab
CS 871 Integrated Pharmacotherapy V-Psychiatry and Neurology with Lab
CS 872 Integrated Pharmacotherapy VI-Infectious Disease with Lab
CS 881 Integrated Pharmacotherapy VII-Oncology and Nutrition with Lab
CS 882 Integrated Pharmacotherapy VIII-Urology and Reproductive System with Lab
CS 911 Integrated Pharmacotherapy IV-Dermatology and Rheumatology with Lab

These are horizontally integrated therapeutic courses that bridge the P1 year’s coursework in basic sciences and the P3 year’s clinical training. In these integrated courses, the knowledge of basic sciences for the therapeutic portion of the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum will be delivered alongside its clinical counterpart, and both didactic and practical experience sessions will be provided to the students. The integrated courses will be taught by a team of multidisciplinary faculty members from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Department of Clinical and Administrative Sciences at American University of Health Sciences with appropriate academic backgrounds and expertise ranging from pathophysiology to pharmacology, from pharmacokinetics to toxicology, and from medicinal chemistry to pharmacotherapy.

Studies1,2 have shown that the teaching format of multidisciplinary integration is effective to improve the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students and allow them to gain clinically relevant and coherent learning experiences in the classroom early on. At the same time, the integrated courses also provide opportunities for faculty members involved to work collaboratively. They are able to put their time and efforts together to design and implement the integrated therapeutic curriculum and learner-centered pedagogical strategies further efficiently.

However, there are drawbacks of integrated courses. For instance, some integrated disciplines, such as clinical chemistry and toxicology, do not contribute to the course content and assessment as much as other disciplines do, and they are often not fully appreciated by all learners, or do not receive as much attention of instructors as other disciplines receive. There is often resistance to the change from traditional one-discipline course learning to integrated multidisciplinary course learning. The resistance, which needs to be overcome, is not only from students but also from faculty and there are often disagreements on course content among instructors and students.

There are both benefits and challenges for students taking the integrated multidisciplinary courses. Students, most of whom are from the culture of traditionally taught one-discipline courses, will have to work harder and be prepared to face more academic challenges from the integrated multidisciplinary courses than the traditional non-multidisciplinary courses, especially when they are enrolled in an accelerated program such as the 3-year accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy program at American University of Health Sciences.

This summer, the second cohort of Doctor of Pharmacy students of American University of Health Sciences, the class of 2023, have also arrived and our new P1 students have already started their first year’s course work virtually. Welcome, Class of 2023!

1. Pearson, ML and Hubball, HT. Curricular Integration in Pharmacy Education. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2012; 76 (10).
2. Islam, MA, Talukder, RM, Taheri, R and Blanchard, N. Integration of Basic and Clinical Science Courses in US PharmD Programs. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2016; 80 (10).

Jonathan Sheng Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
School of Pharmacy
American University of Health Sciences
1600 E. Hill St., Signal Hill, CA 90755

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