Q & A with Rob Rosenow, School of Pharmacy Dean

Although it's one of the biggest challenges he has faced, School of Pharmacy Dean Rob Rosenow is excited about the new program, the Health Professions Campus, and the fact that he was selected the School's founding dean. An alumnus, long time faculty member, and administrator at Pacific, Rosenow holds an O.D. and Pharm.D., in addition to having a unique combination of healthcare experience. Prior to his work with the School of Pharmacy, he was a professor in the Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program and the College of Optometry and the graduate clinical research program coordinator for the PA program.

What interested you in becoming a pharmacist after earning your bachelor's degree?
Actually I started in pharmacy even prior to receiving my bachelor's degree. During high school, I worked in a small, independent retail pharmacy in the town I grew up. The pharmacist that owned the store was a neighbor and it provided a great opportunity to learn about the profession.

Where did you grow up?
Riverbank, Calif. We lived out in the country and the town at that time had a population of about 5,000. It was a great environment in which to grow up.

You practiced pharmacy for eight years in California. Why did you then decide to earn your optometry degree?
I worked primarily with Kaiser hospitals in Northern California, both in the Bay Area and in Sacramento. After seven years, I realized I wanted to have more exposure to direct patient care. My brother is an optometrist; my dad's an optometrist. So the family influence was always there. Making the change was a difficult decision. I was very happy in pharmacy but as I look back, I have no regrets about my decision.

What drew you to Pacific's College of Optometry and to Oregon?
Pacific's program had a more holistic approach to vision care and that was something I was very interested in. I had actually come to Pacific as an undergraduate for a year before transferring to University of the Pacific (UOP) for pharmacy, and that's where I finished my bachelor's degree. So I knew Pacific and my brother is an alumnus.

After earning your O.D., you were an optometrist in private practice, why did you then return to Pacific?
After two years in private practice as an employee, I was looking to either purchase my own practice or buy a partnership in a practice. During that process, I kept in touch with some of the faculty at Pacific and they informed me of a part time position running the Infant and Pediatrics Vision Center in downtown Portland. We really missed the Northwest and decided to move back. At that point we had a transition in deans at the College of Optometry, and the new dean, Les Walls, asked if I would start teaching optometric pharmacology and general pharmacology. That was my first experience in the classroom and I enjoyed it. From there it was a combination of teaching in the classroom and providing clinical supervision at the different Pacific eye clinics. I eventually became clinic director for the Forest Grove Family Vision Center and that experience opened up other opportunities.

You have been at Pacific in the College of Optometry and then also the School of Physician Assistant Studies for over 15 years. What has kept you at Pacific?
The student centered focus and all the great people at Pacific - I found it a very positive environment to be in as an academician. I value the mission and vision of the University and the opportunities Pacific was able to offer me. I thrive on a challenge and the opportunity to continue to learn and share my knowledge, which is what keeps me at Pacific.

Not many professors would be able to cross over from optometry to physician assistant studies. What have you brought to each of these programs?
As a student I always appreciated those professors who were able to bring a lot of clinical relevance to what they were lecturing about. Because of my clinical experience in hospital-based pharmacy, community based pharmacy, and optometry, I brought a unique mix of healthcare experience to the classroom. This experience allowed me to bring the students that much closer to the realities of practice. Relating stories of unique patients brings so much life to the classroom and helps keep the student's attention. That clinical experience is so key.

When did you begin to see the possibility of Pacific starting a School of Pharmacy and what made you want to be involved?
It goes back to my interest in continuing to try new things, learn new things, and be involved in change. It started when I was involved in the College of Health Professions (CHP)strategic planning committee several years ago. One of the objectives was to explore new opportunities in health professions that not only served the mission and vision of the CHP and the University, but also had a need in society. As I started to look at the health professions and which ones fit all those criteria, pharmacy rose to the top. Adding a School of Pharmacy was also an interest of the president and provost, because they realized the national shortage that is affecting all of us now, especially in underserved rural areas. Many communities don't have adequate pharmacy services. The combination of the need in society, the needs and goals of the CHP and the University, it really was a natural that pharmacy was one that moved forward in the strategic planning process of the University. It certainly delighted me. Between 2004-05, I put together a business plan for a presentation to the provost. In the spring of 2005 the proposal advanced through the approval process within the University. In the back of my mind I hoped I would have some role in the School and I was thrilled when I was selected as the founding dean.

Pacific's pharmacy program has drawn hundreds of applicants and is starting off, it appears, on the road to success. What makes Pacific's program unique?
One of the big differences between Pacific's School of Pharmacy and many of the others around the U.S. is that we are a three-year, year round curriculum. Most programs are four year traditional programs. The biggest difference between us and the majority of programs out there is that we offer our curriculum in a modified block curriculum. This allows us to deliver one content area at a time. The length of the block varies depending on the complexity of the topic. This allows students to concentrate on one topic and to learn that topic in much greater depth. Students have an assessment, or exam, every two weeks and the assessment is also designed to be a learning opportunity. The students take the exam as an individual and while that is being graded, they take the same exam in their groups of six. During the group exam the students can discuss each test item and come to a consensus on the best answer. Depending on the score, the group exam may allow students in a group to increase his or her individual score. We have a 90 percent competence. We don't have grades. Students are required to reach a 90 percent competence to be able to pass the assessment. Because healthcare depends so much on teamwork, placing students into teams at the beginning is an essential part of the program. The fact that we require a 90 percent competence means everybody that comes out of our program is really at the same level as far as their ability to provide good pharmaceutical care.

Your positions at Pacific have been quite varied, which one has been the most interesting? Challenging? Exciting?
As far as challenging, this certainly is at the top of the list. It's been a fairly steep learning curve with some aspects of the dean position and some have come quite naturally to me. To have the opportunity to take something from a business plan, and an idea in a committee, to see it actually develop to the point where we have 13 highly qualified faculty and staff, have successfully recruited an outstanding class, and recruited sufficient clinical training sites, this is by far the most exciting thing I've done. Nothing can top this one. Being given the opportunity to serve as dean is one thing, to be able to start a new program and all the excitement that comes with that - I can't top it.


Photo: Rob Rosenow