Assemi wins award for work on PharmD experiential education

Mitra Assemi, PharmD, the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s associate dean of accreditation and quality improvement, recently won an Award of Excellence in Scholarship in Experiential Education for research looking into how pharmacy schools in the U.S. measure and assure the quality of the experiential, or hands-on, component of their curricula.

For PharmD students, working in hospitals, clinics, and community pharmacies is a critical part of their education. To ensure that every budding pharmacist meets competencies only possible through on-the-job training, PharmD programs around the country pair classroom-based coursework with months of experiential education (EE) conducted in different workplaces.

But while the benefits of hands-on training for PharmD students may seem obvious, assuring the quality of these learning experiences presents a challenge. This is, in part, because learning takes place outside the classroom. The experience students receive as part of an experiential course varies depending on the practice sites to which students are assigned, the clinical faculty members precepting the students at each site, and the learning opportunities and activities to which students are exposed during the course.

Assemi and her co-authors set out to see how PharmD degree programs collect, review, and use EE-related data to improve their programs. The latest PharmD degree program accreditation standards adopted in 2016 emphasize assessment for quality assurance and improvement.

The researchers interviewed EE directors at 29 schools of pharmacy and analyzed their responses to several questions about how they assess their programs. Their findings were published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education in April 2019.

The results showed that when it comes to EE programs and quality assurance or improvement, schools of pharmacy struggle with using the results from data analysis to inform PharmD curricular success or the need for curricular change, Assemi said. This process is often referred to as “closing the assessment loop.”

“The biggest takeaway is that colleges and schools are struggling with assessment and evaluation,” Assemi said. “PharmD programs excel at collecting data. Many do a good job of analyzing data, but most struggle with using results to verify quality or inform change.” As part of their findings, Assemi and her co-authors proposed a six-step process to guide quality assurance in experiential education.

Assemi is the experiential program director for the School’s Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) site in Fresno. She hopes to apply the lessons from the paper to continue to improve the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s new PharmD curriculum, which was launched in July 2018 and will be graduating its first cohort in 2021.

The award will be presented to Mitra and her co-authors at the AACP annual meeting this summer in Long Beach, CA.


American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education: Quality Assurance and Improvement Practices of Experiential Education Programs in Schools of Pharmacy


School of Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.