Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy announced today that a quarter of its final-year pharmacy doctorate students will graduate early and be ready for licensure to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 52 students have completed all curricular requirements and are ready to begin practice. The Ernest Mario School is among the first pharmacy programs in the United States to graduate qualified students early to provide practice-ready health care personnel to serve the growing demands of community-based pharmacies, hospital and health care systems, and the pharmaceutical industry.

“We are starting to see pharmacy staffing issues across the state from increased demand and a workforce strained by personnel who have become sick, are quarantined or are caring for family. We expect continued impacts for the remainder of the year,” said Joseph A. Barone, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

As first-line responders for COVID-19 patient care, pharmacists support emergency and ongoing interprofessional health care in the community and hospital settings.

“Anything we can do to get more pharmacists and pharmacy technicians into the workforce, especially in hard-hit areas like New Jersey, will be extremely beneficial to the public’s ability to endure and recover from this pandemic,” Barone said.

The new graduates will enter a variety of fields. Eight will start hospital residencies this summer, including seven in New Jersey and one in New York City. Eight more will join the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellows program and work at New Jersey pharmaceutical companies, where they will support the clinical development of therapeutic drugs and devices to combat a range of diseases, including COVID-19 and other medical conditions arising from the virus.