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Reducing Barriers in Pharmacy School to Improve Research Opportunities for Students

November 24, 2020

By Julie Gould 

milena murrayIn a recent study, a team of researchers found that students sought to have improved access to research opportunities in pharmacy school.  

“Students report additional information regarding research opportunities would positively influence their decision to pursue research while in pharmacy school,” the research team wrote.  

To better understand the barriers and factors influencing student pursuit of research during pharmacy school, and how these study findings can assist with a starting point to maximize student interest in institutions without pharmacy student research programs, we spoke with lead study author Milena Murray, PharmD, MS.  

What existing data led you and your co-investigators to conduct this research?

We have a very robust student research program at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy. Involvement of students in research is a symbiotic relationship with faculty. The students are able to apply their knowledge to the real world and faculty are able to have student extenders to assist with their projects.

We wanted to dive deeper into the reasons why students choose to pursue research. For those students who do not, we want to know about any barriers. This would allow us to attempt interventions to overcome these barriers. 

Please briefly describe your study and its findings. Were any of the outcomes particularly surprising?

We surveyed pharmacy students at Midwestern University. Overall, about 30% of students had been involved with research. For those who did not pursue research involvement, lack of time, too much coursework, and not being familiar with the research project were noted as barriers. Surprisingly, students wanted to be able to work on projects with a friend. 

What are the possible real-world applications of these findings in clinical practice?

Any researcher who works with students can use the information to better formulate student research programs and also overcome any barriers. For example, taking students in pairs of two, as they prefer to work with a friend, instead of just an individual student may increase overall participation. If there are institutions without any pharmacy student research programs, our results can assist with a starting point to maximize student interest. 

Do you and your co-investigators intend to expand upon this research?

At the moment, there are no plans for expansion. It would be interesting to study student-related outcomes (eg, placement after graduation) based upon involvement in research projects during pharmacy school. 

Is there anything else pertaining to your research and findings that you would like to add?

It is important to ascertain the influences and barriers in your specific student populations. The results may vary based upon individual curricula. We offer our own interventions to maximize involvement and research visibility. However, the overall data that we present will be useful as a jumping off point to increase pharmacy student involvement in research. 

About Dr Murray

Milena Murray is currently an Associate Professor at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy and and HIV/ID Clinical Pharmacist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Her research interests include scholarship of teaching and learning, HIV and Hepatitis C pharmacotherapy, as well as drug shortages. 


Murray MM, Kolanczyk DM, Phatak A, et al. Barriers to and factors influencing the pursuit of pharmacy student research. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2020;12(11):1297-1303. doi:10.1016/j.cptl.2020.06.007

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