UIW Feik School of Pharmacy Aims to Lift and Serve Hispanic Communities

October 12, 2020

Advancing the quality of care in diverse populations is more than a motto at the University of the Incarnate Word’s Feik School of Pharmacy (FSOP). Inspired by University founders, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, FSOP’s mission informs every part of its work – from education to community outreach to its strategy for the future. Now in its second year of a five-year Strategic Pipeline Development Program, FSOP is working to create programs aimed at recruiting and producing highly skilled pharmacists with a desire to serve the Hispanic community. The program is part of a $175,000 gift from CVS Health received in 2019.

Among the opportunities developed through the Strategic Pipeline Development Program is the opportunity to introduce UIW and the pharmacy profession to high school students through multiple community events and demonstrations, summer camps and clinics in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The most successful part of the program has been our week-long summer camps called PharmCAMP, where we host 30 high school students from Valley schools to explore pharmacy and the college life at UIW,” said Dr. Amy Diepenbrock, FSOP assistant dean of Student Affairs.

The first PharmCAMP in 2019 was truly a one-of-a-kind experience for students in attendance. Participants were provided transportation to and from the Rio Grande Valley, housed at UIW residence halls and engaged in lessons ranging from how to make lip balm to the opioid crisis. FSOP now has six students enrolled at UIW who attended that first PharmCAMP class.

While the COVID-19 pandemic presented obstacles for proceeding with the program this year, FSOP faculty continued their work by providing a safe, online experience.

“This year we had a virtual camp where we sent a supply box to students and had online sessions for students to continue to learn,” explained Diepenbrock.

The program’s overall goal is to recruit and develop students with a strong desire to work in and serve the people of underserved Hispanic communities. In addition, the program is intended to lift up students of Hispanic backgrounds by providing better access to educational opportunities and career paths, with the understanding that many students eventually choose to give back to their own communities in their careers.

“It gives us an opportunity to meet with Hispanic students and gives them an opportunity to interview for the program at the UIW,” said Dr. David Maize, dean of the FSOP. “We want to increase the number of Hispanic students and Spanish-speaking students in pharmacy to positively help communities down the road.”

The Strategic Pipeline Development Program has also helped FSOP create opportunities for students already enrolled at the University. Undergraduate students are provided the chance to gain first-hand experience serving Hispanic communities.

“Last school year, we were named the first student chapter of the National Hispanic Pharmacy Association, which gives students opportunities to attend a lot of different events and clinics around the community,” Diepenbrock explained.

One of those events gave students an opportunity to take part in a flu vaccine drive to help members of the community get vaccinated. The drive resulted in a 32 percent increase in the number of residents of the local Hispanic community getting their flu vaccination compared to the year before.

“It has had a great response, and the program is doing very well at preparing these students for an opportunity to become better pharmacists that will positively impact Hispanic communities after their time at UIW,” Maize said.

In addition to FSOP’s efforts to introduce more young, Hispanic students to the pharmacy field, the school has taken the initiative to ensure that all of its graduates can effectively communicate with Spanish-speaking community members. Because representation in health care and the ability to communicate with healthcare professionals is vital to helping underserved communities maintain their health and well-being, the FSOP’s Doctor of Pharmacy degree requires all students to complete four credit hours of Spanish for Pharmacy. An optional Spanish certification is also available to FSOP students who wish to further develop their verbal and written Spanish skills. The Spanish course requirement aims to “increase fluency with basic patient counseling in Spanish that increase practice-readiness among our students and provides the training necessary to provide effective patient care to diverse patient populations in South Texas.”   

These efforts and more have earned the UIW Feik School of Pharmacy the 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The national recognition is a reflection of UIW FSOP’s commitment to serving students and communities of diverse backgrounds. The data is clear – FSOP graduated the largest number of Hispanic pharmacists in the continental US in 2018 and 76% of FSOP students are from a minority population.

“I am very proud of the school being selected for the 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award,” said Maize. “Our mission at the Feik School of Pharmacy is to advance healthcare in diverse populations. The first step in meeting that mission is to educate a diverse group of student pharmacists, and this award recognizes our efforts.”

For more information on the Feik School of Pharmacy, visit the Feik School of Pharmacy website.