PharmD Curriculum

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Sep 13, 2015
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Hi everyone,

I am currently considering pharmacy school and I was wondering about the PharmD curriculum. My major right now is biochemistry and although I do like biology, I really enjoyed chemistry. I was wondering if the courses in pharmacy school are more bio-intensive, chem-intensive or an even mix of both.

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Hi everyone,

I am currently considering pharmacy school and I was wondering about the PharmD curriculum. My major right now is biochemistry and although I do like biology, I really enjoyed chemistry. I was wondering if the courses in pharmacy school are more bio-intensive, chem-intensive or an even mix of both.

My school had an intensive biochem course in our P1 year which was about 2x as detailed and in depth as undergrad biochem is. The teacher was one of our medicinal chemistry professors (used to work for pharma) and he taught biochem from a very orgo/mechanism based perspective. By this, I mean we were taught the theoretical mechanism of almost every single step in all of the major metabolic pathways, though there was emphasis on particular steps. It sucked. Our professor was one of those brilliant people that doesn't know he's brilliant because he's always around other brilliant people. I killed myself in that class and managed an A because though it was hard, we were offered an extra credit project towards the end (in depth research on anything related to biochemistry, essentially).

After that, I forgot almost all of the biochem material, other than the main points. You learn plenty of pathophysiology, biopharmaceutics (if you know that word yet), pharmacokinetics (related to biopharmaceutics, mainly ADME or absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion), pharmacology, and the dreaded medicinal chemistry. The meat of your coursework is in the pharmacotherapeutics courses. My school integrated pathophysiology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry and pharmacy practice (what we actually do) into single courses organized in semi-logical ways. The following are the big important courses I can remember off the top of my head from each year:

P1 Fall: (bright eyed and bushy-tailed every morning with a smile on your face ready to learn!)
Principals of Drug Action-lots of pharmacology, toxicology, immunology. This is where we first learned about the specific receptor cascades along with the immune response and the basics of drug metabolism in relation to medicinal chemistry. It was basically an intro to pharmacotherapeutics. This class is your first kick in the ass where you realize you aren't in undergrad anymore.

Biopharmaceutics 1: This is where you learn about the mathematical side of drug absorption along with a lot of other practical stuff. It covers a lot of things and I'd have to look at our teachers self-written text to give you a full overview. Probably the biggest thing is learning about plasma concentration vs. time for drugs, volume of distribution, elimination constant, etc. This was a 2 credit out course (out of 19 that semester) and it was harder than any 5 credit hour course I ever had in undergrad. The professor was great, but demanding.

Drug Information: Pretty easy course which teaches you how to use various databases and resources. Unfortunatly, you're so busy with the first 2 that you neglect this one until the night before exams. Very important course, as you need to know how to find the answers when you don't already know them.

Pharmacy Practice: i don't remember much of this. Another pretty easy course where we had to learn the top 200 brand/generic as part of it. I had not worked in a pharmacy prior to school, so this was actually kind of a thorn in my side each week. An hour or two of studying was enough each week to get them down (for unfamiliar people, it's like learning two languages at once and relating the two words to eachother).

Health Systems: Another easy course, but as stated earlier, PDA and Biopharm take up so much of your time that you neglect the easy courses.

Some other stuff: I honestly can't remember, but I'm sure we had other classes. I'm pretty sure our first rotation was in the first semester. I knew nothing about anything on my first rotation.

P1 Spring: (refreshed after the break, but done chasing after A's. . . B's and C's will do juuuust fine)

Principals of Drug Action 2: Just an extension of the previous.

Medical Statistics (or something like that): Probably one of the most important courses that students neglect. An extension of Drug Information where you mostly learn how to interpret medical studies. The end of the course was our very first journal club. You will learn what journal club is and you will hate it every single time. Ok, I'll tell you what it is. You take a new piece of research that has been published, and you systematically break it down piece by piece, looking for weaknesses, strengths, statistical significance and clinical significance while also relating the research with previous research that came before and where research should go from this point on. I thank god every day that I never have to do another journal club (and I'm an atheist!)

Biopharm 2: This semester was a lot easier than the first, as I recall. More practical stuff and fewer theoretical and mathematical ideas.

Pharmaceutical calculations: Basic calculations, like mOsm, mEq, etc.

P2 Fall: (Ready to go after a nice summer. Here comes the real learning!)

Integrated Pharmacotherapeutics - Cardiovascular: This one is a real kick in the nuts. This combined medicinal chemistry, pharmacology of various drugs and then a lecture on the medical guidelines, diagnosis and treatment (yes, we learn a good deal of diagnosis but not as much as MD/DO's) I studied a minimum of 20 hours a week just to get a B or a C. It's an unbelievably large volume of information that gets thrown at you. It's hard to even imagine how much it is until you are trying to learn everything. The difficult part is learning how to study for so much. That learning curve makes the first therapeutics course very difficult. Oh, and this class was 8 weeks total, we had class every day of the week and right after this one we started the next one I will talk about.

Integrated Pharmacotherapeutics - Endocrine/renal: Same as the one above, but focused on these areas of treatment. This is one therapeutics course that came fairly easy to me. Endocrine was pretty interesting and quite logical. Since Diabetes is included within this section, this combines with the cardio section to be most of the medications you will see as a pharmacist.

Biopharmaceutics 3: After a fairly easy second semester of biopharm, here's another kick in the nuts. This one covers pharmacokinetics extensively. The equations are far more complex, as are the problems. This class wouldn't have been too bad, except our teacher expected us to be able to do these problems quickly. Exams were always a little longer than you needed to really stop to think. You had to know everything inside and out or you were screwed.

Microbiology: They just gave us this to prepare for the infectious disease course in the spring. Wasn't bad, but wasn't easy.

P2 Spring: (you've given up at this point, **** school, let's go drink!)

Integrated pharmacotherapeutics - Infectious Disease: Antibiotics and infections. Sounds simple, but it isn't. On day one, you learn that a penicillin is a beta lactam. On day four, you're still learning about more ****ing beta lactams! 8 hours of beta lactams! Seriously? I would say that cardiovascular was the hardest course for me, but many others would say this course is the hardest. I personally enjoyed infectious disease and took an advanced ID course p3 year plus an ID rotation. This is the one area where I can pretend to be smart with people (as long as they aren't ID specialists, in which case I am a dummy just like everyone else).

Integrated pharmacotherapeutics - GI/Pulm/Rheumatology: Seems like an odd pairing, but it makes sense when you realize this is where you use a lot of corticosteroids for these (autoimmune diseases, asthma/COPD). I believe this is also where we learned about transplant therapeutics (makes sense, with the corticosteroid use), though it's not in the name.

IPPE rotations: I forgot that we have had rotations in P1 and P2 years. If I remember correctly, we did two rotations of a week in p1 year and a 3 week rotation in p2 year. I honestly can't recall what other classes we had at this time. I was either studying or drinking at this time.

P3 Fall: (**** me. Is summer gone already? I don't want to go back. Please kill me.)

Integrated Pharmacotherapeutics - Psych/Neuro: Thank god this is actually an interesting class, because I was burnt out as **** by this point. If your classes are structured so that you cover psych in your 3rd year, you will definitely be diagnosing your own depression/anxiety/adhd as you study. There's good reason to believe that you will be suffering from one of the conditions you are reading about (depression, anxiety, addiction/alcoholism).

Integrated pharmacotherapeutics - Men and Women's health: Finally! An easy therapeutics course. Well, not easy. Birth control is a bitch if you're a guy, but compared to others, this was tame.


P3 Spring: (Am I dead yet? Could someone please kill me? I can't take another SAR.)

Integrated Pharmacotherapeutics - Oncology/Hematology: I'm told that a lot of schools don't even bother with this much, but we have a full course. Unless you want to be a specialist, you will probably never use this. I have forgotten all of it. Needless to say, this is not simple stuff.

Integrated Pharmacotherapeutics - other: Seriously. We had an "other" class for what didn't fit. I don't even remember what was in it because I was checked out and in rotations (in my head) at this point. Remember, these last half a semester only.


P4 Year: (Holy ****! I'm gonna make money soon and I can forget everything I learned in medicinal chemistry!)

Rotations were Community, Hospital, Internal Medicine, Ambulatory Care, P4 Project and three electives like Pediatric, Infectious Disease, Critical Care, Pain, Drug Information, etc. It's better than classwork, but there's still plenty of crap to do such as a project, presentation and the dreaded Journal Club (there is one of these on every rotation, so learn them well). For us, we had a project that could be anything from a community project to a business plan to a chart review study to a full-fledged clinical trial. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT do a study unless you plan to do a residency, fellowship or go into academia. I did a study and it took FOREVER! You do not want a big project on your plate when you are already burnt out.

Anyway, if you have specific questions about the courses that I didn't cover, feel free to inquire.

Edit: I thought I should add that although you use bio and chem, it's not in the same ways. The only information that transfers over in chemistry is the structures and acid/base stuff (henderson-hasselbalch is pretty important). Say goodbye to all the organic chemistry mechanisms, because you won't need them. You obviously have to use plenty of bio, but a lot of the details you learn will be thrown out the window to focus closely on the receptors, enzymes and areas of treatment that are most important.
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