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Grant to recruit and retain diverse future pharmacists

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board grant focuses on recruiting and retaining underrepresented pharmacy students

The Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy received a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) in the amount of $158,519 under the 2018–2020 Recruitment and Retention grant competition in the Minority Health Research and Education Grant Program (MHGP). Elaine Demps, PhD, director of instructional design and support services at the Rangel College of Pharmacy, and Amanda Galindo, EdD, interim assistant dean of student affairs at the college, were awarded the funds to help support their program, Aggie Student Pharmacists Initiative for Recruitment|Retention and Education (ASPIR2E). This initiative aims to increase recruitment and retention of members of underrepresented minority populations (URMs) in the college.

“The College of Pharmacy has a strong commitment to offer quality pharmacy education that is affordable and accessible to our students, particularly URMs,” said Indra K. Reddy, PhD, professor and founding dean of the Rangel College of Pharmacy. “This new grant will help embolden the college’s goal of recruiting and retaining more URM students and advance the diversity mission of the college as well as the Health Science Center.”

The importance of having diverse populations delivering health care is clear, as multiple studies have found positive benefits for the relationship between provider and patient when they share ethnic or racial backgrounds. The concept is called racial/ethnic concordance, and studies have shown that the relationship is strengthened when patients see themselves as similar to their physicians—and the same holds true for pharmacists.

The ASPIR2E program is a four-track program that is broken into “recruitment” and “retention” elements. The first track, pre-pharmacy introductory program (PPIP) focuses on working with pre-pharmacy freshman students at Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The second track, pre-pharmacy advanced program (PPAP) works with second-year students at the undergraduate level with two partner campuses in College Station and Kingsville.

“The model we used was from the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s Aggie Doctor Initiative,” Demps said. “From there, we were able to tweak the program to fit our specific needs around pharmacy students, such as lengthening the third track to six weeks and delivering it in a hybrid format—face-to-face and online.”

The second half of the program focuses on retention once students get into the PharmD program. The third track, pre-matriculation program (PMP), is a summer program, before the students’ first year, that reviews foundational knowledge of the challenging courses that first-year pharmacy students may encounter. The last track—academic coaching program (ACP) urges continued success throughout their courses and ensuring that they graduate from the PharmD program.

“We would like to recruit students at the undergraduate level and offer support all the way through,” Galindo said. “The PharmD program is challenging, and we want these students to have continued support and encouragement to graduate, and this program gives the students a great opportunity.”

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