Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Institutional Strategies to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion in Pharmacy Education

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Institutional Strategies to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion in Pharmacy Education

Article excerpt


One of the greatest challenges faced by institutions of higher education in the United States, particularly in the health sciences field, is the engagement and full utilization of the population's talent. (1, 2) According to the 2010 US Census Bureau, by the middle of the 21st century, minorities will be the majority in America. Minorities are classified as those of any race other than non-Hispanic, single-race white, and currently this population constitutes a third of the US population. While minorities are expected to represent 54% of the population in 2050, within professional programs, including pharmacy, the percentage of minorities does not reflect population trends. (1, 2)

This striking shift in the US population demographic and the existing underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority groups in the pharmaceutical sciences poses a challenge to US pharmacy colleges and schools to recruit, retain, educate, and produce a generation of pharmacy leaders who reflect the population they serve. Conversely, this trend presents a unique opportunity to reevaluate and enhance current practices to build a sustainable infrastructure to support diversity and inclusion. (3, 4)

The total minority population as of 2012 was 36.2% in the United States and 34.5% in North Carolina. (1) The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first and is one of the largest public institutions of higher education in the state. As such, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy is expected to lead efforts to produce a workforce that mirrors and meets the needs of the state.

The most compelling argument for a diverse health sciences workforce is that it can lead to improvements in healthcare. (5-7) Minority populations often have less access to care and are less satisfied with the healthcare that they receive. (8) A diverse healthcare workforce can reduce health disparities and facilitate racial concordance between patients and providers, which has been shown to enhance perceived quality of care. When patients feel that they are receiving adequate care, they are more likely to seek out and trust medical advice, thus improving outcomes. (9) Pharmacists are an integral part of the healthcare team; therefore, increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the pharmaceutical sciences is imperative. (10)

The pharmacy profession has acknowledged the importance of achieving inclusive educational environments. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education standards and guidelines recommend the inclusion of diversity goals for colleges and schools of pharmacy and acknowledge their curricular impact on teaching and learning methodologies. (11, 12) In 2010, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) developed a Task Force on Diversity to further aid colleges and schools of pharmacy in identifying challenges within the profession and academia that prevent underrepresented minorities from pursuing a career in pharmacy and establishing best practices to increase diversity within the profession. (9) The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists published a statement in 2007 that emphasized the importance of diversity in reducing racial and ethnic healthcare disparities. (13)

Some of the greatest challenges to achieving diversity and inclusion in higher education are lack of institutional leadership and diverse faculty and administration to model cultural differences and mentor students. Other barriers include cost; inadequate support, infrastructure, and pipelines to adequately prepared underrepresented applicants; recruiters with little or no experience or proven history; unclear goals; lack of strategy, creativity, and innovation; little emphasis on retention; and weak metrics of success. (4) These challenges can be exacerbated by the inability or unwillingness to discuss diversity openly because of discomfort and social and political aspects; however, they can be overcome through changing culture and intentional strategies to increase diversity. …

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