The R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy has gone through many changes since it first opened on the University of Arizona campus 75 years ago, from 25 students and three faculty members – almost all male – to approximately 60% women each. . classrooms, two thriving buildings and one of the leading pharmacy programs in the country.
The UArizona School of Pharmacy opened on September 1, 1947 with Rufus Lyman, MD, at the helm as dean. At that time, the students finished their teaching in the surplus army huts. Dr Lyman mentored the school to become a full-fledged college on July 1, 1949, then retired soon after the first class graduated with a bachelor’s degree in June 1950.
The 1950s saw many milestones. In the first class, the average age was 27 and the first and only female graduate was Anna Catherine Ward. Nearly all graduates are World War II veterans, and more than half of students are married with at least one child in the family. Most are also Arizona residents.
The five-year curriculum leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy, the nation’s first, was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in September 1951.
In 1953, professor Albert L. Picchioni, PhD, created the Arizona Poison Control System, the state’s first poison center — and only the second in the nation — at the college. Picchioni and colleagues developed a database of 2,000 index cards at the request of pediatricians whose patients were inadvertently harmed by household cleaning products. Through the Poison Control System, information about chemicals and their effects on health is distributed to hospitals across the state.
The Poison Control System was the predecessor to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, the college’s first Center of Excellence, which was founded in 1980 with funding from the Arizona Legislature.
In 1959 under the guidance of Willis R. Brewer, PhDa professor of pharmacognosy and the youngest person ever to be appointed dean at the university at the age of 33, the college expanded to include doctoral programs in pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacology.
Women made up 9% of the graduating class from 1950 to 1972, even though college was a friendly environment for women, according to Metta Lou Henderson, PhDwho completed bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy at UArizona in 1961, 1966 and 1978, respectively.
“There are four women in my undergraduate class, two are married and two of us are single. Women getting married in college were not so common back then,” said Dr. Henderson, who has been a research professor at the college since 2008. “I really don’t have a problem; we are treated equally by the faculty. We are driven to do whatever we want to do. My class is half Korean War vets who are all married, and they all have children. They teased us, but they wouldn’t let anyone outside the pharmacy look at us with crossed eyes.
“When I returned to take my master’s degree, I was the only woman in the graduate program. I’m also the first woman to get a master’s degree from college, and I’m the first person to get a PhD.”
In 1973, the number of registered women rose to double digits and never stopped growing. A major turning point occurred a decade later when women began to outnumber men. In 1981, 33% of graduates were women, compared to 57% in 1982.
Currently, women graduating from the College of Pharmacy still outnumber men in a trend that mirrors other colleges of pharmacy nationally.
The pharmacy has its own space
The decade of 1970-2000 was a significant period in the evolution of higher education. Dean Jack R. Cole, PhD, the first alumnus (Class of 1953) to be appointed dean of the college, campaigned for the construction of a new building at the Arizona Health Sciences Center. Dr. Cole secured a $1 million grant from Skaggs Companies Inc., and construction began in 1979.
The Skaggs Center for Pharmaceutical Sciences opened in 1982 and has been the site of numerous research successes since then, including licensing small-molecule drugs aimed at shortening the lifespan of cancer cells, developing therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Down’s syndrome, and pre-clinical development. promising antiviral drug for influenza.
The 1980s also brought changes to the academic degrees offered in colleges. The Arizona Board of Regents approved the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree in 1981. By 2022, more than 4,000 students have graduated from college.
In 1985, I. Glenn Sipes, PhD, Head of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology began coordinating the new institution, the Center for Toxicology. The center has grown to include the Superfund Basic Research Program and the Southwest Center for Environmental Health Sciences, launched in 1994, to research environmental health risks and disease among people living in arid environments experiencing climate change. It has also facilitated community outreach and engagement opportunities for diverse populations in the Southwest, including Native Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and rural communities, teaching people how to maintain an environmentally sound quality of life and educating them about potential environmental health risks. Postgraduate and doctoral students have the opportunity to work with faculty including Georg Wondrak, PhD – recipient of the first R. Ken and Donna Coit award professorship – on research focused on environmental exposure to ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer.
The Center for Health Outcomes and PharmacoEconomic Research (HOPE) was founded in 1986. Through HOPE, researchers, academic institutions, health care organizations, and pharmaceutical companies around the world collaborate to assess health care practices and interventions from clinical, economic, and humanistic perspectives. .
The new millennium brings transformation
Strong growth continues into the new millennium and once again expansion is needed. In 2006, the college moved to the Roy P. Drachman Hall-Pulido Center, a building it shares with UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. In 2007, the college opened a Phoenix location in the Phoenix Bioscience Core. In 2014, the college welcomed its first three virtual PharmD students, who were streaming live video from Tucson.
“The future of our campus is bright and full of promise.”
Dean Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD
In 2016, the Dean Rick G. Schnellmann, PhDhis first year as head of the college, he created a challenge to raise $26 million to fund the expansion of the Skaggs Center for Pharmaceutical Sciences. Construction began two years later, and the Skaggs addition officially opened in 2020.
“This expansion enables the School of Pharmacy to remain at the forefront of drug discovery, pharmacy, pharmacology and toxicology research, and provides current and future pharmacy students with more opportunities to help reshape the future of healthcare and medicine,” said Dean. Schnellmann.
A new Center of Excellence, the Arizona Center for Drug Discovery, was founded in 2019. The center advances drug discovery statewide by connecting UArizona researchers in Tucson and Phoenix with pharmaceutical partners. Twice a year, the center and the UArizona Cancer Center host the Drug Discovery and Development Summit, which brings together scientists and industry professionals to highlight key research areas devoted to treating diseases prevalent in Arizona.
The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center continues to expand. In 2021, the center received 87,217 calls from across Arizona. Center workers and volunteers answer questions about poisons and drug exposures and provide information about poison prevention and the safe and appropriate use of drugs, as well as offering consultations with doctors and healthcare professionals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the center is fielding hundreds of calls per week and sometimes hundreds per day – on hotlines dedicated to inquiries about the coronavirus.
Going forward, the college is already undergoing a transformation thanks to a $50 million gift from R. Ken Coit in 2001 who renamed the college in his honor. The endowment establishes six endowed chairs in drug discovery, neurodegenerative diseases and toxicology, as well as scholarships for the college’s doctoral program and the new Coit Museum of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.
“The future of our college is bright and full of promise,” said Dean Schnellmann. “We are well positioned to respond to and address future healthcare challenges. The Arizona Center for Drug Discovery and the upcoming launch of our newest center – the Coit Center for Longevity and NeuroTherapeutics – are key to this effort.”