Dear ACPHS Community Members,

The title of the Wall Street Journal article was "Staff Shortage in Labs May Put Patients at Risk.The date was not March 2020, it was May 13, 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic even started. The current crisis reinforces and exacerbates this threat.

As the gap between diagnostic and medical intervention shrinks, clinical lab scientists are the unsung heroes of our health professions and in our fight against pandemics. At ACPHS, we are proud of our Clinical Laboratory Sciences (CLS) program. Last year, our licensing exam pass rate and job placement rate were both 100%. This year, we have twice the number of applicants to our MSc CLS program and have the capacity to double this program. CLS has blossomed into a systems science. Historically, it was divided into separate disciplines including histology, cytology and biochemical diagnostics. Now our students learn the integration and complementarity of these fields; the importance of diagnostics in the practice of medicine; and why care and precision are essential in executing their profession.

I never thought we would see public health professionals as today's action heroes, but they are on the front lines in our battle against the current pandemic. The epidemiological premise of "flattening the curve" to "stop the spread" is not only becoming part of our daily parlance, but is expanding our understanding of the significant role public health plays in protecting our communities. Two years ago, when ACPHS created its newest department, the Department of Population Health Sciences, we developed a program to educate future practitioners. Our students learn about the quantitative, statistical side of epidemics while at the same time are attuned to the social determinants of health. Borrowing on the pharmacy model, the Collaboratory was opened as a practice site for public health students. We need public health professionals today as social interventions are becoming as important as medical interventions in improving health outcomes.

Our latest initiative, the Center for Biopharmaceutical Education and Training (CBET) will create a pathway to the pharmaceutical industry for our microbiology and pharmaceutical science students. CBET, the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department and the Microbiology program will be launching a one-year Professional Science Master's program to give students, alumni and current professionals hands-on experience in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, gene and cell-based therapies. These programs are timely because of the growth of biopharmaceuticals - large proteins made from recombinant DNA technology. I should also point out one of the most important products of bioprocess engineering - vaccines. We have expertise in both virology and bioprocessing, allowing us to introduce vaccine manufacturing into CBET's offerings which is particularly timely as pharmaceutical companies around the globe race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

In this time of crisis, we see our healthcare system under enormous stress. At the same time, we have a great untapped resource of healthcare professionals - pharmacists. It is much easier and more convenient to find a pharmacist than to find a primary care physician, and our students are educated to do so much more than the current scope of practice of pharmacy. During this pandemic, pharmacists could be testing, counseling and vaccinating. Although we educate our pharmacists for a spectrum of specialties and our students go on to fulfilling careers in a range of practice settings, our healthcare system does not fully utilize the great talent base we provide each year through our graduating class. We need to promote the advanced services that pharmacists can offer and advocate that pharmacists be given provider status. Not just during this pandemic, but from here on out. I am hopeful that one silver lining of this crisis is that as pharmacists fight this pandemic on the front lines, the public and policymakers will gain a greater appreciation of the critical role they have, and be open to expanding their role in our healthcare system.

Our pre-professional tracks at ACPHS are another option for students interested in healthcare careers. Grounded in health sciences, humanities and research, these tracks prepare students for a variety of next steps including medical school, physician assistant programs, dental school and much more.

Infectious diseases will always be with us and will require an ongoing research effort to confront each generation of diseases. ACPHS faculty continue to make valuable contributions to this effort. The Department of Pharmacy Practice has a cohort of faculty interested in antibiotic drug resistance with a focus on personalized patient care strategies. In the Department of Clinical and Basic Sciences, federally funded research seeks to understand the basic cellular mechanisms that give rise to drug resistance.

We are living in a time of crisis. During crises, we learn to appreciate many things that we previously took for granted. Crises test our value system and make us reassess what is most important to us. For ACPHS, it's our mission to educate the next generation of leaders to improve the health of society.

This pandemic has heightened focus on those professional skills that are needed to protect the health of our society. Our assortment of programs is particularly well suited to not only improve the health of society, but to also protect society against pandemics like the current one. Rather than being overwhelmed by the challenges of the current crisis, we should take heart and find it affirming that the world needs our students now more than ever.

Greg Dewey, Ph.D.