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VA Gains 70 Pharmacy Residency Positions

Cheryl A. Thompson

At a time when all sectors of the economy are scrutinizing expenses, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is increasing its investment in pharmacists. The department recently announced that it will fund 70 more pharmacy residency positions for the upcoming academic year, for a total number of 264 positions.

"Given the fiscal situation we're in today, that's a huge investment in pharmacy residents," said Andrew Muniz, M.S., FASHP, who spearheaded the effort to boost VA's residency programs and serves as the deputy chief consultant for pharmacy benefits management. "You're not going to invest resources in something not considered of high value."

The new positions, to be spread among medical centers across the country, will offer general or specialty training, such as geriatric pharmacy practice, he said.

Muniz said the 70-resident increase is the single largest expansion in the pharmacy residency program during his 33 years with the VA.

Chief Consultant John Ogden, M.S., FASHP, the highest-level pharmacist in the VA, credited Muniz for the new positions, adding, "This is big. We are just delighted this happened."

Muniz viewed the approval of such a large number of new residency positions as recognition by nonpharmacists of the "value and importance of those residency positions to VA and its patients."

"I want [the residency programs] to be our main source of recruitment for pharmacists because those are the types of pharmacists we need," he said.

Although he did not know the percentage of VA residents who finish their training and then accept employment at one of the medical centers or other facilities, Muniz said the retention rates reported anecdotally by pharmacy managers have been higher than he expected.

In addition to funding more residency positions this coming year, VA will also be providing better benefits, Muniz said. Residents will receive the same health and life insurance benefits that federal employees do.

Also, VA's pharmacy residents may, with the permission of their preceptor and the facility, work part time as VA pharmacists, Muniz said. This new policy will enable residents with a valid U.S. pharmacist license to subsidize their stipend without obtaining licensure in the state where they work. For example, he said, a pharmacist with a North Dakota license who has a residency position at a VA medical center in Florida may work part time at that facility without obtaining a new license. 

Where Are the New Residency Positions?

The new residency positions were assigned to the Veterans Affairs medical centers listed below. These positions were not included in the numbers advertised at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in December 2001. (The number of new positions totals 71; because one medical center asked to have one fewer resident than last year, the net gain in residency positions is 70.)

Baltimore, 1 new position
Bay Pines (Fla.), 2
Boise (Idaho), 1
Boston, 2
Brooklyn (N.Y.), 1
Buffalo (N.Y.), 2
Charleston (S.C.), 1
Chicago—Westside, 1
Cleveland, 3
Columbia (S.C.), 1
Dallas, 3
Fargo (N.D.), 1
Gainesville (Fla.), 4
Hines (Ill.), 2
Huntington (W.Va.), 3
Indianapolis, 1
Kansas City (Mo.), 5
Lake City (Fla.), 2
Lebanon (Pa.), 1

Lexington (Ky.), 2
Little Rock (Ark.), 4
Madison (Wis.), 1
Memphis (Tenn.), 1
Milwaukee, 3
New York City, 2
North Chicago (Ill.), 1
Northport (N.Y.), 1
Oklahoma City, 2
Palo Alto (Calif.), 1
Phoenix, 1
Providence (R.I.), 2
Reno (Nev.), 2
San Juan (Puerto Rico), 3
Seattle, 2
Sepulveda (Calif.), 1
Tucson (Ariz.), 1
West Los Angeles (Calif.), 1
West Palm Beach (Fla.), 3