The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) and Wal-Mart share a common goal: to help colleges and schools of pharmacy ensure that there are a sufficient number of well-prepared students who hope to pursue a career in academia. An AACP/Wal-Mart initiative is providing the opportunity.
The July 2006 AACP Annual Meeting and Teachers Seminar marked the second year for the Wal-Mart Annual Conference Scholarship Program. The pharmacy student scholarship program provided $1000 scholarships to 35 student- faculty pairs from AACP member institutions. The scholarships covered 100% of the students' registration costs and 50% of the faculty members' registration costs at the early-bird rate. The scholarships also covered registration for both the students and the faculty mentors to attend the Teachers Seminar. The winners were able to apply the remainder of the scholarships to airfare, lodging, and other meeting expenses for the students.
The idea for the program originated with David Trang, RPh, when he attended the AACP meeting in 2004. At the time, Trang was manager of professional recruiting and college relations for Wal- Mart. "I was attending an educational session and learned that there was a huge faculty shortage throughout all schools of pharmacy. I realized that schools could not continue to grow unless there were qualified faculty to teach the next generation of pharmacists. Then, perhaps the pharmacist shortage could be alleviated. Although the return on investment for the company was difficult to measure, it was the right thing to do," explained Trang, who is now assistant professor in pharmacy practice at the University of the Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy in San Antonio, Tex.
Trang met with Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh, executive vice president of AACP, at the 2004 meeting about a joint scholarship program, and they hit the ground running.AACP and Wal-Mart started work on the program in the fall of 2004 and had the applications ready for January 2005, according to Amy Connelly, director of development for AACP.
To raise awareness about the scholarship program, AACP sent information to all the deans of pharmacy schools and colleges, reached out to their liaison groups, sent e-mail blasts, and put information in the AACP newsletter. "This year we would like to come up with a snazzier brochure or flyer to get the word out even more about the program," said Connelly.
In 2005, the scholarship program awarded 20 student-faculty scholarships. Wal-Mart contributed $25,000, and AACP contributed $10,000. Wal-Mart announced at the 2006 meeting that the company would contribute $50,000 for 2007. Dr. Maine said that with the increased funds she anticipates 50 to 60 student-faculty pairs for the next meeting. She also said that AACP will continue to provide funds, but no amount has been determined.
Student evaluations regarding the program and meeting are proving helpful. Although AACP is waiting for evaluations from the July meeting, Connelly said, "Last year they were fantastic. So we knew we were onto something big." One suggestion students offered was an opportunity for the winners to meet prior to the meeting. She said that at this year's meeting the association held a meet-and-greet session to allow the students and faculty members a chance to meet one another.
"The results have been amazing. [The scholarship program] has reenergized the dialogue between faculty and students and why students should give a career in academia more than just a passing glance," said Dr. Maine.
Mike Peerson, RPh, director of professional recruiting for Wal-Mart, who attended this year's meeting, said, "It creates an environment where [pharmacy students] can see what is out there. Plus, it get students off campus with their mentor. Students and faculty have a hard time getting together on campus, so an opportunity to spend time together off campus is a big win." He continued, "It's a heartwarming reception when you go to this event and see the passion and hunger in their eyes."