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Program helps feed pharmacist need

Jan. 01, 2009 @ 10:37 PM

HUNTINGTON -- An increasing demand for pharmacy technicians is the reason behind a new program in Huntington.

Applications are now being accepted for entrance into the Tri-State Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, or TIPS, a pharmacy technician program, said Dr. Pedram Ghafourifar, director of the program.

The two-semester program begins June 8, and aims to produce well-trained pharmacy technicians, staff said.

"It really is a response to the severe shortage of pharmaceutical science professionals in this country," Ghafourifar said.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts an estimated 100,000 pharmacy technician jobs will become available in the next seven years, said Dr. Ted Hagen, director of admissions.

With baby boomers retiring or getting sick, the need in the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow, Hagen said.

Hagen said West Virginia is also one of the few states in the country where the entire state is underserved.

Ghafourifar said the nation also has increasing types of medications. When he was a pharmacy student, he had to study about 700 FDA-approved medications. Today, more than 6,000 such medications exist.

Hagen said the Tri-State Institute aspires to have a doctor of pharmacy program in the future, as well.

"Increasingly, the percentage of people with previous pharmacy technician experience are going into Pharm D programs," Hagen said.

The focus right now, though, is on producing pharmacy technicians, he said.

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists provide medication and other health care products to patients, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Technicians also often help prepare prescribed medication, counting tablets and labeling bottles. They also perform administrative duties.

Hagen expects 100 students to begin training for the 32-credit hour program in June. The institute already has generated a lot of interest, he said.

TIPS also offers flexible schedules with morning and evening sessions each weekday. A student may attend a morning session one day and an evening session the next. Classes last about 45 minutes and are scheduled 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.

"I believe this is going to help us to generate even higher quality professionals," Ghafourifar said.

The program includes individual assessment of students' academic and career needs with advisement and counseling, too.

The facility also includes a classroom, media center, laboratory, recreation center and student lounge.

Training will not only take place in the classroom, though, Ghafourifar said. Students will have the opportunity to test their skills at the ContinuumCare Pharmacy in Barboursville. ContinuumCare Pharmacy provides specialty pharmacy services to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent care facilities and adult group homes in the region. There, students can see firsthand how billing works and how to fill prescriptions.

When the program is complete, all students also are eligible for up to 20 hours of individual review with their instructors in preparation of their certification exam.

Certification is recognized in both West Virginia and Kentucky, and requirements are similar to many other areas across the U.S., Hagen said.

The institute is located in the old YMCA building, at 1057 6th Ave. Ghafourifar said his staff members also are excited to be bringing the 100-year-old building back to life.

Hagen said anyone interested in touring the facility is welcome to stop by from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or by appointment.

More information about the program is available by calling 304-522-1888, e-mailing info@TIPSwv.com, or visiting www.TIPSWV.com.

To learn more

The Tri-State Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences is hosting a career fair from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, at 1057 6th Ave. Local businesses, military recruiters, educational institutions and the public are invited to attend the event, which will be held in the gym. Light refreshments will be served.

A TIPS night for prospective students also will be open to the public and will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26.

More information is available by calling 304-522-1888.



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