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Eshelman School of Pharmacy initiative receives $200,000 grant

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Kiser.

Carolina Across 100 awarded a grant to the Rural Pharmacy Health Initiative, launched by the Eshelman School of Pharmacythis month to expand the initiative’s efforts to Ahoskie, North Carolina this summer.

According to the Carolina Across 100 website, the School of Pharmacy received $200,000 to support its efforts to improve access to medically underserved communities across North Carolina. The school will use the funding to open its third rural pharmacy hub.

Stephanie Kiser, executive director of the Rural Pharmacy Health Initiative, said the initiative’s goal is to recruit postgraduate pharmacy students to pharmacies in rural communities. Kiser said the initiative hopes to combat the state’s recent increase in pharmacy deserts, where small rural communities experience a shortage of local pharmacies.

“It’s creating a huge gap in the community because pharmacists are often one of the most accessible health care providers,” Kiser said.

She said when the initiative began, the team focused on eastern North Carolina with the goal of expanding rural pharmacy health hubs across the state.

The initiative currently has two rural pharmacy hubs in Scotland Neck and New Bern, which are in partnership with McDowell’s Pharmacy and Realo Drugs respectively. Kiser said community health needs and resources are the biggest determining factors when considering locations for students.

The Duke Endowment funded the first two rural pharmacy hubs, and the Carolina Across 100 grant will fund the third hub in Ahoskie. The hubs will offer residency positions and summer internships for pharmacy students and provide on-site training for future employment.

Kiser said the initiative sparked the interest of many students because pharmacies that partnered with the initiative are involved with innovative projects.

Abigail Holdsclaw, research associate for a Carolina Across 100 entrepreneurial initiative ncIMPACTsaid the goal of Carolina Across 100 is to respond to the statewide challenges that were created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic across each of North Carolina's 100 counties.

“We’re working with communities on challenges that they’ve identified themselves, and helping them build capacity,” Holdsclaw said.

Holdsclaw said the rural pharmacy health initiative does this by sustaining collaboration and cross-sector development across many disciplines. The partnership is Carolina Across 100’s fourth project since 2021 and brought their total county reach to 69 counties.

A huge primary goal for the partnership is to create connections across campus and engage students, Holdsclaw said. The rural pharmacy initiative is in the process of recruiting the first cohort of students.

Hallie Springer, a public administration graduate student and research assistant for ncIMPACT, said the initiative allowed her to put her coursework into action. Springer worked on youth outreach and workforce engagement during her time with Carolina Across 100.

“It’s very fun to see a lot of people on the ncIMPACT side and people out in North Carolina excited to do the work,” Springer said.

Each rural pharmacy hub will be recruiting UNC pharmacy students for upcoming summer positions. Kiser said providing professional opportunities in rural communities to students increases the interest in establishing more rural practices.

"They're really expanding the space at which pharmacies are making an impact in the community," she said. "I think of some of these rural pharmacies as really being the heart of health care in their rural communities."

@dailytarheel |

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