Gielow tips the scales for Concordia School of Pharmacy

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Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon has begun planning for the construction of a new building for its new School of Pharmacy, set to open in the fall of 2010.

Once open, the Concordia program will be the 113th accredited School of Pharmacy in the nation and only the second in the state of Wisconsin. The other is at the University Wisconsin in Madison.

The three-story, 60,000-square-foot building (plus a 20,000-square-foot basement that will also be used for the school) is being designed by Wauwatosa-based Zimmerman Design. The building will be situated in an “L” shape and will be the first thing seen by people entering the campus.

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The planned building also is designed for future expansion.

A general contractor has not been selected yet for the project. 

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The space in the pharmacy building will include faculty offices, research labs and a terrace on the third floor. The first and second floors will hold classrooms, pharmacy labs, break out rooms and lecture halls. The basement will feature more lab space and additional maintenance and lab support.

According to former state Rep. Curt Gielow, who recently was appointed executive dean of the Concordia School of Pharmacy, the facility also will be equipped with state-of-the art equipment, laptop computers for students and energy-efficient materials to produce an environmentally friendly “green” building.

“The school design and size are the optimum we want,” Gielow said. “We may have to cut back, depending on how much money we raise.”

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The cost for construction of the building is estimated at $17 million. Gielow is striving to raise $20 million to provide funds for staff development, faculty recruitment and other initial operations.

Gielow’s appointment to executive dean occurred largely because of his background in health care and his relationship with the school.

Gielow graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in pharmacy from St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1968. From there, he became chief pharmacist at a small Catholic hospital in southern Illinois before continuing his education, and receiving his master’s degree in health care administration from Washington University, Missouri, in 1973.

He has since owned and operated a variety of companies, including his most recent venture, Gielow Associates, Inc., a national executive search, public policy and consulting firm that specializes in executive search and health care consulting.

Gielow also spent some time in public life as a member of the state legislature. During his time in the Assembly, he was involved in passing several laws related to health care reform.

Gielow began his relationship with Concordia University when members of the school contacted Gielow Associates to help establish its plan for developing the School of Pharmacy. Gielow organized an advisory board for the school and conducted a needs assessment.

“Milwaukee is the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. that does not have a School of Pharmacy,” said Gielow.

The assessment also showed that the aging of the Wisconsin population means many current pharmacists are nearing retirement, just as a rising number of people, especially aging baby boomers, need services from pharmacists.

Concordia hopes its Pharmacy School will fill the long-term need for pharmacists in the state and will help provide more pharmacists in underserved areas.

“Concordia University already has a strong education program that produces many teachers for public and private schools in both urban inner cities, and rural areas,” Gielow said. “It is part of our initiative as well to use those connections to provide much-needed pharmacists to areas in the inner city and rural communities that are underserved by the current pool of workers.”

After the assessment was complete and it was established that there was significant support from the community and the Concordia board members for a School of Pharmacy, university officials made the decision to move forward in search of a dean. Gielow was encouraged to apply for the open dean position but was faced with his lack of an academic teaching background.

“Concordia decided to do something unique and sort of split the baby,” Gielow said. “They hired me as executive dean, in charge of forming community relationships, business partnerships and finding the money to build the school, part of which I had already been doing through the consulting business, and hired Dean Arneson as academic dean in charge of recruiting faculty, building a curriculum and getting us accredited.”

Green Bay-based ShopKo Stores Inc. recently presented Concordia with a $1 million lead gift for the School of Pharmacy. ShopKo was founded by a pharmacist almost 50 years ago and was one of the first discount retail stores to add pharmacies to its store locations, Gielow said.

“ShopKo is proud to be giving the first gift for the creation of Concordia’s new Pharmacy School,” said Mike Bettiga, executive vice president of retail health services at Shopko. “We understand the vital role pharmacists play in their communities, which is why we are making this investment in both a future generation of pharmacists, and a long-term contribution to the health and well-being of the communities they will serve.”

Students in the School of Pharmacy will complete a six-year program, including two years of general education and pre-pharmacy courses and four years of professional study. They will complete multiple internships in the field and then graduate with a doctor of pharmacy degree.

“One of the challenges we have is to find experiential sites where our students can go out and spend six week rotations in various pharmaceutical environments and can train from a certified preceptor. We have to find a whole lot of partners in our area.” Gielow said. “So far, the receptivity is that we have more then 200 available experiential sites who have volunteered already. There has been universal support for this endeavor so far.”  

Once open, the Concordia School of Pharmacy will accept 50 to 75 students per class.

According to Gielow, the school already has 40 students going through the pre-pharmacy courses in anticipation for the opening.

“I don’t think getting students is going to be an issue. Right now, our biggest campaign is to find donations,” he said. “My goal is to get commitments for $10 million by next spring so that we can get a shovel in the ground and get started on this project so we can be ready to start our classes in the fall of 2010.”

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