Pharmacy Students Can Find Meaning by Improving Diversity, Inclusion in the Field

Pharmacy Careers, Spring 2022, Volume 16, Issue 1

Colleges of pharmacy are essential to providing equal access and quality of care to underserved communities.

All through my life, I have seen how financial insecurity can affect a person’s future. When coupled with minority status and the low cultural competency of others, such instability can lead to significant disparities for underrepresented populations. I always knew that once I became financially secure in my profession, I would strive to give back to my community. By using my knowledge about health and the networking skills I acquired as a pharmacy student, I have been able to make good on my goal much sooner than I had expected.

Through the Aaron Johnson Scholarship, I have been able to address the needs of underrepresented high school seniors in Broward County, Florida. The award aims to close the academic achievement gap for students who have historically lacked equitable educational opportunities. Established under the George Snow Scholarship Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students reach their career goals through education, the scholarship is bestowed upon students who have been systematically excluded from higher education. Each recipient is awarded $2500, and all applicants are given professional development services, whether or not they receive a scholarship.

Starting a scholarship was something I had always wanted to do, but the goal became more attainable during my time in pharmacy school. Working with a colleague, I started Hour Invite, a health media platform and podcast that allowed me to engage with influential health care leaders. Meeting them gave me a much-needed perspective on what pharmacy is doing for patients and underrepresented populations and how to maximize the services we offer. These conversations also gave me an in-depth understanding of the progressive work being done in terms of caring for patients and expanding the scope of practice of pharmacists—plus insights into some of the challenges the field is experiencing.

Having gained this knowledge, I felt more confident about starting something of my own to create change locally and through the industry as a whole. After developing the Hour Invite, I started seeking out like-minded individuals who had more experience with philanthropy. These mentors gave me the guidance and the tools to succeed.

Diversity, inclusion, and health equity are areas that, in my view, the field of pharmacy as well as the nation is looking to improve. According to a publication from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, approximately 90% of people in the United States live within miles of a community pharmacy, and high-risk Medicaid patients visit their local drugstore about times a year.1 Pharmacists, therefore, are ideally placed to improve the health of patients and understand the social and cultural dynamics of the communities they serve.

A diverse group of pharmacists that is representative of the nation’s population will lead to care that is more inclusive. Hopefully, through my work with pre-pharmacy students and student organizations, I will be able to contribute to a more diverse profession just as I have been able to mentor minority students who want to pursue pharmacy through the scholarship.

Pharmacies are an untapped resource that can drive health equity, diversity, and inclusion and lead to positive outcomes at the local level. By educating pharmacists on the role they can play in helping underserved communities, colleges of pharmacy are essential to providing equal access and quality of care now and in the future.

REFERENCE

1. Striving toward health equity in COVID-19: the role of pharmacies in a national response. National Association of Chain Drug Stores. October 14, 2021. Accessed March 15, 2022. https://www.nacds.org/pdfs/HealthEquity.pdf

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Johnson is a fourth-year student at the Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy and founder and chairman of the Aaron Johnson Scholarship.