BROOKINGS – As a new school year gets underway at South Dakota State University, a new department launches within the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Profession.

The Department of Allied and Population Health will house two programs – medical laboratory science and Master of Public Health – that had been operating without a department  and two faculty who had been within the Department of Pharmacy Practice. The new department also will eventually house the proposed community innovation center.

The college’s departments of pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences otherwise remain unchanged.

South Dakota Board of Regents approved the new department as the 2018-19 school year was closing with a July 1 implementation date.

Leading the new department is Sharrel Pinto, who began work April 2, 2018, as the college’s first Hoch Endowed Professor in Community Practice Pharmacy. She now gains additional administrative duties and will be tasked with creating synergy from like-minded programs, according to Jane Mort, dean of the college.

Of her new position, Pinto said, “I am excited to take on this new leadership role within the college and bring together faculty from various disiplines that share a common interest to transform health care for the better through teaching, research, program development and offering clinical services.”

Pinto is a community health expert who earlier this year received a multimillion dollar, five-year grant to study ways to improve patient outcomes, practitioner well-being and impact care for South Dakotans with chronic conditions. A research coordinator and part-time program assistant hired through Pinto’s research efforts will be able to assist other aspects of the new department, Mort said.  

Programs serve 64 students

Medical laboratory science is a four-year program with a 100 percent job placement rate that trains students to take and analyze samples in medical laboratories. The program can take up to 24 students and has four faculty members and a staff member.

The lab science program also has plans to develop a master’s degree program, so having a department head with experience starting master’s programs will greatly assist that effort, Mort explained.

The Master in Public Health is a two-year, online program taught in cooperation with the University of South Dakota to approximately 40 students. They are trained for careers ranging from biostatistics and health services administration to environmental health. The college has recently hired a full-time coordinator who also will have teaching responsibility.

The proposed community practice innovation center, which is to be presented to the Board of Regents later this fall, is designed to become an internationally recognized center that leads innovation in community practice. 

Also housed with the new department will be two faculty members who teach classes such as Public Health and Wellness, Pharmacy Resources Management, and U.S. Health Care Systems in the Pharm.D. program. Mort notes the transition coincides with current vacancies in those positions. 

Programs to team on research

She foresees these new faculty members working with colleagues and students in the Master of Public Health program on research projects targeting such areas as medication non-adherence, health literacy, the opiod epidemic and value-based service reimbursements. Having a connection with the Master of Public Health program also should give those faculty members greater leverage when applying for grants for research projects, Mort said.

Pinto, who came to SDSU after a highly successful 14-year stay at the University of Toledo (Ohio), said she is encouraged by the development of a new department even before the community innovation center has been created. 

“During their health care journey a patient encouters multiple health care professionals. By bringing together medical lab scientistics, practitioners, researchers and public policy makers, the Department of Allied and Population Health will be the first pharmacy college in the nation to bring together professionals from various disciplines to wholistically improve the patients’ health care journey and impact outcomes.

“I’m thankful to see the value that SDSU and the Board of Regents have placed on these key healthcare arenas.”

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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