Pharmacy Partnership Recruits Minority Students
Published February 2006
Brandon Curtis thought it was inevitable that he would pursue a career in medicine. After all, his mother is a nurse and his father, aunt and uncle are physicians.
"My dad and his friend from med school had a bet about which one of their sons would say 'hemoglobin' first," Curtis laughs. "My parents have been encouraging me to get into medicine since day one, but I really didn't want to go to med school."
Curtis thought about being a radiologist, but quickly realized he would still have to go to medical school.
"I never thought about pharmacy until I met Bengy," he says.Curtis, 20, a UC pre-pharmacy sophomore, is one of about 3,000 students that Bengy Mitchell, PharmD, has encouraged to consider pharmacy as a career over the last three years. Dr. Mitchell visits local high schools and college fairs promoting pharmacy, especially to minority students.
His efforts are the result of a partnership between the UC College of Pharmacy and the Kroger Company to increase the number of minority students at the college and pharmacists in the profession.
"Cincinnati is a diverse community, yet our minority enrollment is low," says Andrea Wall, RPh, assistant dean for the College of Pharmacy. "We want our student body to be more reflective of the community, and this partnership is one way we're doing that."
Currently, there are 59 minority students at the college, an increase of 50 percent since 2001.
"There's a huge shortage of pharmacists nationwide, and even more of a need for minority pharmacists," notes Dr. Mitchell, a Kroger pharmacist. "Communities are becoming more and more diverse. It's important to have diversity in any setting, and there's a definite need for improvement in pharmacy. Patients tend to have better interactions with practitioners if they are the same ethnicity."
Curtis was a senior at Winton Woods High School when Dr. Mitchell visited his chemistry class.
"Bengy told us what pharmacists do, why it's important, career options and the job outlook. We then used real compounding formulas to make 'cough syrup' out of ingredients like candy and soda."
In addition to the compounding exercise, Dr. Mitchell gives the students a role-playing counseling scenario to demonstrate the interaction pharmacists have with patients.
"I think one of the hardest things in pursuing a career in pharmacy is knowing what's out there," he says, "and Bengy is a wealth of information. He tells me directions my career could go, like a hospital, consulting, academia--the possibilities are endless. He points me to places and people I should meet."
The College of Pharmacy is a competitive program. About 600 applicants seek the 96 slots that are available each year, and Curtis is hoping to be one of the new students in the fall of 2007.