The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) created a new online graduate program focusing on medical cannabis and dietary supplements. The new Master of Science in Dietary Supplements and Medical Cannabis program plays on the university’s long-standing expertise in both fields.
The new program builds upon the research and expertise of the National Center for Natural Products Research and the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education, both at the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy.
“Our goal is to create one of the best programs, if not the best, to serve the industry, and it really builds off our strengths,” said David Colby, the program coordinator and a professor at the Department of BioMolecular Sciences.
The program offers a multidisciplinary approach and on a variety of topics including government regulations, advance research and lead product innovation.
“With these industries growing in our state and our country, this program is designed to ensure the workforce is well-trained and has the knowledge and skills to be effective and contribute to these industries,” noted Donna Strum, the dean of the School of Pharmacy.
According to Colby, no other institutions in the state offer such a unique program and only a handful exist nationwide. However, he acknowledges that other programs focus on practical training for pharmacists and health professionals as opposed to the chemistry, biology and toxicology of the industry.
“We’ll be teaching them about plant genomics and formulation and manufacturing, as well as regulation,” Colby said. “We want to train people who want to work in those industries, not necessarily a pharmacist who wants to recommend the correct cannabis product.”
The university plans to launch a one-year graduate certificate in dietary supplements in Fall 2025 followed by a one-year certificate in medical cannabis in Fall 2026. The following year, the school will unveil a Doctor of Pharmacy-Master of Science dual degree program, the university said.
There are also plans to provide the curriculum to both undergraduate and pharmacy students.
“Many of our pharmacy students get summer internships at dispensaries, and we’re seeing pharmacies that now offer cannabis and have a dispensary actually in with the pharmacy, so this makes sense,” Colby said.
The university also anticipates a strong undergraduate interest in the program. When the School of Pharmacy launched a medical cannabis elective, Colby was “blown away by the response.”
“It was limited to 30 students, and there were 50 on the waitlist,” Colby said. “It’s the only time I’ve had more people on the waitlist than enrolled and the only time I’ve literally had students beg me in the halls to get into that class.”
The program will officially launch in Fall 2024 and offer rolling admissions.
For more information, visit www.online.olemiss.edu/ms-ds-mc/.