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Pharmacy school giving Johnson City economy strong boost

JEFF KEELING • May 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Johnson City’s new pharmacy school is providing the local economy a stronger dose of good medicine than initially projected. A study by East Tennessee State University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research showed the College of Pharmacy pumped $20.6 million into the region in its second full year (2007-08), nearly double the $10.9 million estimate. “This suggests that the support the college has gotten from the community has been larger, and coming in sooner, than we had originally anticipated,” said ETSU economist Steb Hipple, who authored a report on the study. The study calculates its findings based on additional output within the community, additional income for households and additional employment. The school’s dean, Larry Calhoun, said several factors have helped drive the success, including completing a new building on the campus of the Veteran Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home before the third class entered last fall and successful faculty recruitment. “Lots of colleges of pharmacy have had trouble hiring faculty, but we haven’t had that problem,” said Calhoun, adding that four new faculty members have committed to starting this summer, and the school plans to offer two more positions. The fourth first-year class will enter this fall, and Calhoun said more than 800 prospective students have applied for 80 slots. “When you add another class and six more faculty members, it’s just going to strengthen what the college is doing,” Calhoun said. When the first graduates cross the stage in May 2010, he said, the college will enter another phase of its local impact, and yet another within a few years as dedicated laboratory space is built up for faculty members. “For the next two years I think we’ll continue to see significant growth in economic impact as our graduates enter the area work force 12 months from now,” Calhoun said. “A direct result of the college of pharmacy being here is to put graduates to work locally.” Economically, though, it’s research that could bring maximum impact from the school. It wasn’t until just recently that all faculty members got their own lab space. That space is leased from ETSU’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine — which itself has been an attractant for faculty members interested in collaborative research — and Calhoun said one of his next tasks will be raising funds for a permanent research space for the pharmacy school. Ironically, the growing pains of ETSU’s pharmacy school may work to its advantage in terms of future grant funding. Calhoun said the funding pipeline has been thin lately, and about the time ETSU faculty members have “cranked up their research initiatives” and begun collaborating with med school faculty, he hopes funding will be picking back up. “Now is the time for them to start on long-term research, and with (National Institutes of Health) stimulus money coming, down the road who knows what our researchers will be able to do that could result in large grants?”

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