November 2020

School News

PharmD Admissions Update

PharmD applications are pacing significantly better than last year, but projected class size may not meet enrollment target

2019 PharmD Honor Code Signing with incoming DPH-1s

After a bruising admissions cycle last year, the SoP is showing some signs of recovery in the current 2020-2021 PharmD admissions cycle. As of November 12, the SoP is pacing 48% higher in verified PharmD applications, and the number of accepted offers at this time increased 81% over last year. In addition, the UW–Madison campus is currently the second highest producer of applicants to pharmacy schools, generating 76 applicants so far. As of mid-November, the SoP has captured 97% of PharmCAS applications submitted by UW students.

Looking at the larger trend, while PharmD applications to the SoP are pacing significantly better than last year (2019-2020), the number of SoP applications in the current cycle (2020-2021) remains lower than the 2018-2019 admissions cycle. “I expect applications to increase over last year (2019-2020) but still be less than the 2018-2019 year,” says Jeremy Altschafl, Assistant Dean for Recruitment and Admissions. “Our yield will be very important. At this time last year, we had 55 accepts, and this year we have 100 accepted offers. I expect some attrition from this group of 100 and still anticipate that our PharmD Class of 2025 to be smaller than the 10-year average of 134 based on in-progress applicant data.”

Nationally, the number of people applying to pharmacy school continues to shrink precipitously, declining each year since 2013 with last year seeing the worst decrease at nearly -9% and this year showing worsening trends at -17% drop in individual applicants nationally as of November 2. Beginning in 2010, the pharmacy school application landscape started a negative slide in total PharmCAS applications nationwide. The national application trends began cratering in 2017 with a -20% decline in total applications submitted, followed by another -15% decrease in 2018, and nearly -17% last year in 2019. For this current cycle, PharmCAS is reporting -7% decrease in submitted applications to pharmacy schools nationally this year, as of November 2.

“The Enrollment Task Force, Admissions Committee, SAA Office, and Marketing, among many others, have done a remarkable job helping the SoP adapt to the emerging national crisis in PharmD applications,” says Dean Steve Swanson. “Our PharmD application submission numbers this cycle are headed in the right direction thanks to their hard work. While we may not meet our target class size again this year, significant progress has been made, which I greatly appreciate!”

Strong yield is critical

2019 PharmD Orientation

Yield refers to the number of applicants who are offered admission that actually accept the admission offer. A factor affecting yield this year is greater competition — more students are expected to receive multiple offers of admission. Although fewer applicants are applying to pharmacy schools, those applicants are applying to more schools this year, with the mean number of PharmCAS applications per applicant edging up by 0.7%.

“With more pharmacy schools nationwide holding PharmD admissions interviews mostly virtually due to COVID-19, applicants have been applying to more schools on average this cycle. Interviewing virtually requires less time and money resources, making it easier for applicants to apply to additional programs,” says Jannelle Frey, PharmD Admissions Coordinator. “We are already seeing an increase in the number of additional offers our accepted students have received. This may impact yield negatively.”

Among the many yield strategies in place at SoP, the biggest tool is scholarships, which the School received central campus funding for general recruitment and the Advanced Opportunity Program (AOP) scholarships designed to assist underrepresented and first-generation students.

“At this time, $240,000 in campus-level admissions scholarships have been awarded to currently accepted students, and $53,000 in AOP and donor scholarships have been awarded based on need and other donor criteria,” says Frey. “We offered campus-level admissions scholarships to those who we felt may decline our offer of admission in an effort to improve yield. All declined offers received substantial scholarship offers as well, which indicates that we had a good sense of who may decline our offer.

“We will continue to monitor accepts throughout the cycle and use recruitment scholarships as a method to increase our admission-offer to matriculation yield.  Additional donor and AOP scholarships also will be awarded to currently accepted students based on need and merit as we move deeper into the cycle,” adds Frey.

Early Decision helps yield

2019 PharmD Orientation

Early Decision applicants can apply to only one pharmacy school, and they commit to that pharmacy school if they receive an admission offer. This year, the SoP saw an increase of 120% in Early Decision applications with 86 versus 39 last year. Of the 100 accepts at SoP thus far, 78 applicants are Early Decision, who are essentially committed to attending the SoP in Fall 2021.

However, Early Decision won’t be available in the next admissions cycle (2021-2022). The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) began phasing out Early Decision this year, making the current 2020-2021 admissions cycle the final year for Early Decision.

“Some pharmacy schools are not participating in Early Decision this year, so there is a trend for national application submissions to be pushed back a bit. The SoP Admissions Committee decided to maintain Early Decision to be consistent with many of our Big Ten peers that were keeping Early Decision for one more year,” says Altschafl. “Without Early Decision next year, it will be more challenging to forecast PharmD enrollment.”

By the Numbers: Accepted Offers

Among the 100 students who accepted SoP’s admissions offer:

  • 78% Early Decision
  • 20% Students of color, 12% URM (underrepresented minorities)
  • 18% First-generation
  • 68% Female
  • 70% Wisconsin residents, 9% Minnesota, 20% out of state, 1% international (Korea)
  • Average GPA: 3.53
  • Average PCAT: 77% PCAT (33/100 submitted scores)
  • Primary Undergraduate College:
    • 55 UW–Madison
    • 18 UW System (Green Bay, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Platteville, Stevens Point, Whitewater)
    • 4 Other Wisconsin Colleges
    • 1 International College
    • 22 Non-Wisconsin Colleges/Universities

Thus far, 138 applicants have interviewed virtually in this cycle. The application deadline is February 1, 2021.

“After a significant increase in applications early in the cycle, we experienced a sluggish October and November. However, we expect an increase in application volume once we get into December,” says Altschafl.

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SoP Employee Sessions on Round 2 Furloughs Planned in December

The SoP Business Office will be holding employee sessions in December to review the logistics of the new campus-wide furloughs that begin in January of 2021 and our School’s plan for implementation. These sessions will be similar to sessions that we held in May where we explained the specifics around how furlough days will be taken and to cover questions from SoP faculty and staff.

Dates and times for these sessions will be finalized in the coming weeks, please keep an eye out for information in an email soon.

For the most up-to-date information on round two furloughs, please review the UW–Madison Office of Human Resources’ Furlough Information web page.

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SoP Wellbeing Survey Update

The SoP community was invited to complete the SoP Wellbeing Survey in October with the goal of providing a picture of our community’s wellbeing, as decision-making bodies explore opportunities to address issues in our School.

Results are being reviewed by the Committee on Academic Staff Issues (CASI), the Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC), and the SoP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Survey outcomes will be shared with the community on a rolling basis, starting in December and January.

Open to faculty, staff, grad students, and postdocs, 91 employees took the SoP Wellbeing Survey between October 19 and October 26. The survey had an overall 29% participation rate, which included representation across audiences:

  • 43% (23/54) of Faculty
  • 35% (37/106) of Staff
  • 9% (4/45) of Postdocs
  • 25% (27/107) of Grad Students

As a whole, our School community reported a high level of wellbeing. However, there are signs of distress. Issues that were captured in the 2018 Climate Survey persist, including a need to address racism and foster a more inclusive environment for our community members of color. Other themes included the need for mental health resources and work-life balance, in addition to addressing work-related stress.

The survey results will help guide future action to help build more equity and inclusion, as we continue to make progress in making the SoP a nurturing place for everyone. Thank you to the survey respondents for taking part in shaping our workplace.

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SoP Salute

To: Amanda Watter, Housing Network Coordinator

From: Andrea Porter, PPD Associate Professor and Director of Pharmacotherapy Laboratories

“Amanda has been instrumental in tracking the completion of community outreach hours for our current second-year students that carried over from their first year. When things shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19, many first-year students were unable to complete their community outreach hours as part of their IPPE course.

“Amanda took the lead in tracking the student completion of these hours, making sure they were all recorded appropriately in multiple systems. Since this was out of the normal cycle, this added to her normal workload. Amanda’s responsiveness and attention to detail made the process go very smoothly.

“As of October 15th, all students have completed these hours! Thank you for all that you did for our students!”


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Pet Lovers Corner

Pet Parent: Taylor Watterson, HSRP grad student

Pets: Charlie and Winnie

Winnie and Charlie: Neither of my cats were thrilled at my suggestion that all three of us should wear matching costumes and take holiday photos.
Winnie (aka Winifred) couldn’t be bothered by her sister’s sense of fashion and decided to take a nap.
Charlie (aka Charlotte) wanted to show off her new pumpkin costume.
Charlie is a big believer in no tricks and EXTRA treats!

Buzzing Around

Promotions/Change in Appointment

Dustin Frost, postdoc Research Associate in the Li Lab, appointed to a new position as Assistant Scientist with PharmSci Professor Lingjun Li and the Li Lab, on November 1.





New Hires

Xingchen Dong, Postdoc Research Associate with PharmSci Assistant Professor Ting Fu and the Fu Lab, on November 1.

Xingchen Dong joins the School of Pharmacy from the Biochemistry Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his PhD in August 2020. During his PhD career in Dr. Lin-feng Chen’s lab, he first studied the mechanism by which the epigenetic regulator BRD4 controls the gastric cancer cell cycle arrest and cell senescence. Notably, BRD4 inhibitors have been studied extensively in clinical settings to restrict tumor progression. Later, his focus switched to innate immunity where he deciphered the critical role of BRD4 in multiple inflammasome activation in macrophages in response to diverse foreign stimuli.

Now joining Dr. Fu’s lab at the SoP, he will focus on dissecting the essential role of the nuclear receptor Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) in restricting colitis-associated colorectal cancer (CRC). In the AOM/DSS-induced colitis and CRC model, the treatment of AOM/DSS causes severe colitis- and cancer-associated phenotypes, including the disrupted bile acids profile, the enhanced immune cell infiltration and cytokine secretion, and the elevated serum carcinogenesis markers and the tumor formation. More importantly, the occurrence of colitis and CRC upon AOM/DSS treatment is accompanied by the decreased FXR signaling, which has been implicated in restraining CRC in another APCmin/+ mice model.

Therefore, Dong will aim at:

  1. Examining if the activation of FXR signaling by its agonists could reverse these phenotypes caused by the AOM/DSS-induced colitis and CRC.
  2. Investigating the mechanism by which the FXR signaling suppresses the colitis-induced CRC, and could be used as a new therapeutic target for the treatment of CRC.

Rolando Avilés-Reyes, Assistant Scientist with PharmSci Professor Jeff Johnson and the Johnson Lab, on November 16.

Avilés-Reyes rejoins the SoP from Johns Hopkins Medicine, where Avilés-Reyes was as a Postdoctoral Researcher. Previously, Avilés-Reyes was a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow with the Johnson Lab at the School of Pharmacy. Earlier in Avilés-Reyes’ career, Avilés-Reyes worked as a Research Scientist at SENESCYT in Ecuador.

Avilés-Reyes earned a PhD in neurobiology and neurosciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, School of Bioanalysis in Quito.

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