Pharmacy education at UBC has evolved from its historic roots in botany and dispensing. Nowadays, our base is much broader and includes pharmacy practice, foundational science, health systems and policy, and pharmaceutical sciences research.
In the early 20th century, pharmacy was felt to be rather unstandardized across Canada. Where in some provinces, pharmacists could train at universities, in others, such as British Columbia, they could only train by apprenticeship with additional formal instruction from certain pharmacy schools. The Canadian pharmacy system lacked standardization beyond 12 stringent licensure exams, which focused mainly on a pharmacist's manufacturing and compounding abilities. Indeed, pharmacy narrowly escaped being classified as a trade by the BC government in the 1920s.
At the 1925 AGM of the Pharmaceutical Association of BC, it was proposed that the association seek affiliation with the University of British Columbia. Members in attendance suggested that the pharmacy curriculum be adjusted to include biology and toxicology, with reduced emphasis on botany. But in the years that followed, government revenues were redirected toward the Great Depression and the Second World War, and away from expanding the university. Pharmacists continued to apprentice by day and study by night for another two decades.
The Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada agreed that the minimum requirement for granting a pharmacist license should be three years of university studies. In response, UBC established its Faculty of Pharmacy in 1946. Courses included chemistry, pharmacognosy (the study of medicines derived from natural sources), biology and pharmacology. Pharmacists still had to apprentice for at least an additional year to get their licenses. In 1960, Canadian pharmacy programs were all standardized to a four-year university program. Apprenticeships were replaced by a six-month internship served after graduation. In 1961, UBC's Faculty of Pharmacy established itself in the Cunningham building, named for George T. Cunningham, an enterprising pharmacist who opened 52 pharmacies across BC during his years of practice.
By 1968, pharmacy education at UBC had evolved to include a role for pharmacists as medication experts instead of as mere drug distributors. A clinical program for fourth-year students was implemented. In addition, instruction in pharmacology, anatomy and pathology was increased, and the emphasis on pharmacognosy was reduced.
In the late 1960s, the Faculty of Pharmacy was renamed the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences to better reflect UBC's commitment to research. PhD candidates came on board in 1968, and a new research wing was added to the existing facility. In 2009, the government of British Columbia announced its support of $86.4 million to facilitate the expansion of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and we proudly opened our new building in 2012.