History of UBC Pharmacy

Before we dive into the birth of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia (UBC), we need to backtrack to late 19th to mid-20th century British Columbia (BC).

The first pharmacists in BC were trained as apprentices in private pharmacy schools until the mid-20th century. The apprentices wrote and passed 12 exams focused on their manufacturing and compounding abilities before being granted licensure. These exams were only offered twice a year and apprentices could rewrite each exam separately until they passed all 12. Unlike pharmacy students today, apprentices had to work long hours at the pharmacy in addition to studying for the exams which made it difficult to balance the workload.

UBC Point Grey Campus 1925
Source: http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm/ref/collection/arphotos/id/256

Pharmacy education then was focused on manufacturing and compounding rather than pharmacology, toxicology, and physiology. By the 1920s, pharmacy education was falling behind with new scientific developments and pharmacists were struggling to be recognized as professionals. For example in World War I, the Canadian Armed Forces refused to automatically give officer status to pharmacists but granted the status to physicians and nurses.

To improve pharmacy education, pharmacists looked to three areas for improvement. First, pharmacy should be taught in universities with access to medical and scientific faculties. Second, pharmacists needed to re-evaluate certain areas of study to progress from their manufacturing past. Third, pharmacists must learn to speak the modern language of medicine.

At the 1925 annual general meeting of the Pharmaceutical Association of BC, affiliation with UBC was announced. The plan was to adjust the pharmacy education curriculum to include biology and toxicology, with reduced emphasis on botany. However, the plan didn’t become reality until two decades later due to the financial constraints of the Great Depression and the redirection of government resources during World War II.

George Cunningham Building

In 1946 the Faculty of Pharmacy at UBC was officially created. From 1961 to 2012, the Faculty’s permanent home was in the George Cunningham Building until the new Pharmaceutical Sciences Building was opened in September 2012.

Pharmaceutical Sciences Building

Fun fact: The Faculty of Pharmacy changed its name to the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences to reflect a shift in focus towards research.

UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences dispensary in the Biological Sciences building, 1950.

-Vivien Lee, Communications and Marketing, UBC PharmSci


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