PharmD program creates new opportunities to explore industry and research career paths

The UCSF doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree curriculum features an evolving course of study that prioritizes new combinations of instruction and experiential learning to keep pace with diverse and dynamic careers in pharmacy and beyond.

Students explore these expanded opportunities—notably including a new Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence and Computational Drug Discovery and Development (AICD3), expanded rotation slots at Genentech and Pfizer, and an updated dual-degree application process—against the backdrop of a constantly changing health care environment.

Our highly interdisciplinary education highlights the latest developments in science and the latest innovations in practice, as students engage with renowned research and clinical faculty members. And UCSF’s robust culture of collaboration, prioritized as one of the School’s strategic goals, increases synergies between clinical, translational, and discovery science in teaching and research.

Integrating new programs and focus areas further develops cutting-edge skills and research paths that support the school’s top-ranked reputation for cultivating compassionate, patient-centered pharmacists.

Introducing the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence and Computational Drug Discovery and Development (AICD3)

A new, one-year program expected to begin in fall 2024 offers students with a bachelor’s degree an exciting opportunity to complete a master’s degree that is highly complementary their PharmD, giving them a competitive edge for today’s most desirable jobs in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry.

The MS in AICD3 is the first program of its kind in the United States. It empowers students to apply computer science, data science, statistical analysis, machine learning, and other data-driven methods to the discovery and development of new drugs, and to therapies for diseases that desperately need a cure.

“Everything is becoming more computational,” said Director of Postgraduate Education Programs Joanne Chun, PharmD, PhD. “People in industry already recognize the talent and training at UCSF, but we have to take it a step further to create a pipeline—a bridge—between academia and industry.”

According to Chun, students will learn about not only different computational tools but also sources for the storage, management, analysis, and modeling of drugs. Hands-on workshops will enable students to apply different computational programs used for designing novel drugs, tools for systematically assessing potential lead candidates, and the development of digital repositories for studying chemical interactions. Workshops will focus on R and Python programming languages.

The new program reflects the interdisciplinary training that is a hallmark of UCSF’s approach to research, with in-demand, new skills that are leading to transformational changes occurring in the range of roles a PharmD can pursue.

Expanded experiential learning at Genentech and Pfizer

Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) are experiential courses that regularly adapt to provide students with new opportunities to become a member of a pharmacy health care team.

Among the newer programs, the highly sought-after Genentech APPE now includes guaranteed slots in even more areas of the company for selected School of Pharmacy students, while another new program at Pfizer in San Diego expands the reach of our rotations into other regional biotech hubs.

Over one-third of the PharmD curriculum at UCSF is experiential, presenting students with new career paths that might not yet be on their radars when applying for our PharmD program.

APPEs enable students to gain experience in both traditional and nontraditional career settings within the pharmacy profession. Some students complete rotations with federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or Federal Drug Administration (FDA), while others engage with more local programs, including rotation offerings at the Indian Health Service and the California Poison Control System.

“Our APPEs cover just about every type of specialty or clinical focus area that you could think of,” said Associate Dean of Experiential Education and Professional Development Valerie Clinard, PharmD. Some electives cover academic rotations that include teaching opportunities and exposure to the administrative side of pharmacy, she said, while others might be IT-focused studies, overlapping with managed care and industry or touching on pharmacy informatics.

“Some students come to UCSF for clinical pharmacy, and some come for research, but also some students come for both, and these unique APPE courses offer mentorship and guidance for everyone,” said Clinard.

Dual degrees combine clinical research and practice

UCSF is one of only a few universities to offer a PharmD-PhD dual degree program, responding to the growing need for clinical scientists in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to design and carry out clinical studies.

The addition of a new application process now makes it possible to plan for both programs simultaneously from the start of a student’s PharmD journey, and those committed to earning the PharmD degree and a PhD degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics (PSPG) can streamline their studies.

Not only can students take advantage of a three-year program, but those who complete the program are uniquely suited to perform basic and clinical research and also translate the results of their research to clinical practice. In addition, students in the PharmD-PhD program meet all requirements for licensure as a pharmacist in California.

“Our dual-degree program has everything for everyone,” said bioengineering professor Su Guo, PhD. “And once students have dual degrees, they can be innovative leaders in bridging pharmacy with pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, regulatory science, and more.”

More opportunities

In addition to the new master’s degree, expanded experiential learning, and dual-degree possibilities, the School’s diverse fellowship opportunities—which can entail research, clinical training, or immersion in a variety of professional settings—are always being updated. With the pharmacy profession entering a new frontier of expanded pharmacy practice, such advanced specialized training offers invaluable insight into a range of career opportunities.

“This is exceedingly attractive to employers, to see that students not only have the [clinically focused] PharmD, but they also have all these other skills from the fellowship training,” said Associate Dean of Fellowships Leslie Carstensen Floren, PharmD, PhD, MA. “Our goal is to develop people into independent practitioners and scientists, with so many skills and such a solid knowledge base that they can hit the ground running.”


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, PharmD Degree Program, PSPG

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.