California Pharmacy School Provides Pathway to Profession for Hispanic Students

This new program will help with the shortage of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish-speaking health care providers in the area.

When you think about California, you might imagine the bigger urban centers like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, rather than thinking of it as an agricultural state. However, much of California’s Central Valley resembles the American Midwest more than its other areas, and with a large Hispanic population, the Sunshine State has had a chance to forward that mission with a grant from CVS.

On September 15, 2016, the California Health Sciences University (CHSU) College of Pharmacy received the 2016 CVS Health Diversity Award, which includes a 5-year, $250,000 grant. It’s called the Programa Próspero: Pathway to Pharmacy Careers, and its purpose is to attract Hispanic and bilingual high school students to the pharmacy profession. This program works with the high school and local community college to bring students directly to the professional program.

In speaking with Richele Kleiser of CHSU, I learned that as the only pharmacy school supporting the region, which has a Hispanic/Latino population of more than 50% and a high concentration of southeast Asian refugees from the Vietnam war, the university is trying to offer affordable education to local students. Many would-be students might lack the skills, desire, or support system. Many are first-generation migrant workers who are bright but don’t understand the value of college or the school system. This would give them additional student services, clinical service exposure, and volunteer opportunities with patients on the clinical side of pharmacy to offer high school students a great experience that would track them into pharmacy school.

In a press release, Clovis Community College President Lori Bennett said “[O]ur pathway programs help high school students begin focusing on career preparation earlier in their education to potentially reduce the amount of time and lower the cost of their college education… . [The program] will give participating students advanced preparation for pharmacy school, Spanish language and cultural competency skills, and a reserved seat at CHSU College of Pharmacy.”

The program isn’t limited to Hispanic and Latino students. Senior Academic Vice President and Provost Wendy Duncan indicated that although the university hopes to attract these students, non-Hispanic students who’ll learn to speak Spanish and understand the Hispanic and Latino culture so they can better connect with patients would also be eligible to apply. CHSU President Florence Dunn echoed this sentiment and mission-based initiative.

“This new, 5-year pathway program will prepare high school students to serve the health care needs of our Hispanic/Latino community,” Dunn stated. “We will provide education and patient care experiences to help students transition from high school to 2- or 4-year colleges and then to CHSU College of Pharmacy to become Spanish-speaking pharmacists.”

“We have so many talented Hispanic students that don’t see the opportunities in our community and often leave the area for college or chose to work instead of going to college,” stated Dora Westerlund, CEO of the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and Downtown Business Hub. “We have high hopes that programs like the Programa Próspero: Pathway to Pharmacy Careers will help Hispanic students choose health care careers and stay local.”

This new program will also help with the shortage of Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish-speaking health care providers in the area, Westerlund added.

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