Submitted/School of Pharmacy

An artist's rendering shows what the exterior of the new School of Pharmacy building will look like. Set to open in August, the building will feature cutting-edge technology and a nod to the history of pharmacy.

Museum, soda fountain, dining facilities among features of new School of Pharmacy building

Facility will greatly expand educational opportunities

The future and past of pharmacy will meet. Students will have access to the newest techniques and the history of a venerable profession will be preserved when KU’s new School of Pharmacy building opens its doors this fall. The facility will also be key in addressing a crucial shortage of pharmacists across the state.

Slated for an August opening, the new School of Pharmacy building is quickly taking shape on west campus. The building will be open for classes for the fall 2010 semester, and will be officially dedicated Oct. 22. The building will allow KU to expand its pharmacy enrollment from 105 to 150 students per year and feature classrooms, labs, a pharmacy museum and dining facility.

Most importantly, students will learn in state-of-the-art settings. A pharmacy complete with a robot that fills prescriptions will be staffed with students and professionals.

Ken Audus

“We will have a functional pharmacy in the near future that’s an extension of the pharmacy at Watkins Memorial Health Center,” said Ken Audus, dean of Pharmacy. “It will be set up for potentially high volume. Our students will be exposed to working with technologies like the robot that they’ll see in large hospitals and even in more and more retail pharmacies throughout Kansas.”

The building will house an extension of the drug information center at the KU Medical Center as well. All pharmacy students are required to spend four weeks at the center as part of the program. Center staff provide expert information on pharmaceuticals to health care professionals. The Food and Drug Administration relies on KU’s drug information center for up-to-date black box warnings on serious adverse drug effects, and Audus said he hopes the Lawrence center will eventually be more accessible to the public. He cited the ever-growing number of people caring for aging parents and family members as an example of who could be served by the center.

While students are learning about the future of pharmacy, the trade’s past will be on display for the public. A pharmacy museum on the building’s second level will feature a timeline on notable developments in the field, displays on milestones in KU pharmacy research, historic drug ads and information on modern techniques.

“We started in 1885. We’re the oldest professional school at KU and we’re also the third oldest public school of pharmacy west of the Mississippi,” Audus said. “We have a lot of history to share.”

Pharmacies have long been a central part of a community, both as a center for health care and a social gathering place. KU’s new facility will embrace the sense of community with an old-fashioned soda fountain reminiscent of those in many pharmacies of yesteryear. Audus notes that soda fountains, which serve up ice cream, malts and cold beverages, are making a comeback in many Kansas communities.

Ice cream won’t be the only item on the menu. The building will be home to the Mortar and Pestle Café, the first dining facility on west campus. Nona Golledge, KU Dining Services director, said the café will offer grilled sandwiches, salads, wraps, hot entrées, a Pulse coffee shop and a student store that will sell healthy snacks, sandwiches and cold beverages. Patio seating will be open to visitors to the soda fountain and café.

While the building will allow KU to enroll more pharmacy students, the larger classrooms — including a 75-seat and two 175-seat auditoriums — will also allow the school to open its classes to other majors. Previously, graduate students and those in other majors who could benefit from pharmacy classes were unable to take them, Audus said. The facility will also allow the school to reach out to pharmacy students at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita and others around the world through video conferencing and distance education.

“We’ll look at this building as a global pharmacy education facility,” Audus said.


The school will also be able to add a pharmacy library and resource center, which had not been possible previously because of a lack of space. The additional space will also house a student lounge, a pharmacy skills and biochemistry lab, offices for the pharmacy practice program and an atrium designed to be welcoming to the public and potential students.

Audus said the building will be among the most energy-efficient on campus. It will also be green on the outside, with gardens and plantings around the building maintained by the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program.

The KU School of Medicine-Wichita is part of the expansion as well. A floor is being added to the pharmacy facility on the campus, which will house as many as 40 students as part of a new satellite program. Both expansions are funded by nearly $50 million in state bonds and $5 million raised by KU Endowment.

“Pharmacists are an important part of the health care system, but there are too many communities in Kansas where people have to drive to the next county to see one,” then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said at a ceremonial bill signing when the expansion was announced. “That’s very hard on seniors and people with limited mobility, not to mention making it that much harder to recruit new families and businesses to the community. Expanding KU’s School of Pharmacy here in Wichita and in Lawrence will make it so we can start to fill this gap, which will help Kansans live healthier lives and be an economic benefit to the state.”

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