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Presented to CVS Health

Diversifying Pharmacy’s Future Talent Pipeline

July 2017

An Invitation to Invest in Pharmacy Care for Underserved Communities by Creating the CVS Health Urban Scholars Program

The pharmacy needs of the nation are always changing. Having been in the business of educating pharmacists since 1859, we know this better than most. Today underserved populations routinely suffer greater chronic health problems simply because they cannot find a pharmacist who speaks their language. At the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) we are actively working to combat these heath care disparities.


The UIC College of Pharmacy’s Urban Pharmacy (UPHARM) Program trains the leaders of tomorrow to work specifically in underserved communities. Pharmacists from a diverse array of backgrounds are given a thorough grounding in the social, environmental and economic factors impacting the communities they will serve. They receive additional training on diseases and medical conditions prevalent in urban settings, and must be fluent in a second language.


The UPHARM Program is preparing future pharmacists to work in the places they’re needed most, and, with your help, we’ll do even more! The CVS Health Urban Scholars Program would help recruit and retain amazing students who want to take on this monumental task.

Context and Community – Why We Care

“UIC’s mission is…to train professionals in a wide range of public service disciplines, serving Illinois as the principal educator of health science professionals and as a major health care provider to underserved communities.”

- UIC Mission Statement

Serving the public, especially underserved communities, is so central to our outlook as a University that it is written into our mission statement. And that is something we take very seriously at the College of Pharmacy. It is not a fashionable mantle we take up as the need arises, it is who we have always been. A mission of inclusion and service is central to everything we do.

Earlier this year, the College of Pharmacy reached an agreement with the City Colleges of Chicago that will guarantee admission of talented CCC students into the UIC College of Pharmacy, the #6 ranked college of pharmacy in the country according to US News and World Report.

Beginning this fall, five places will be reserved each year for qualified students who intend to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Applicants must maintain a full course load at CCC and have at least a 3.5 GPA, have completed all pre-pharmacy coursework at CCC, and receive at least a “B” in all prerequisite pharmacy courses.

CCC is the largest community college system in Illinois and one of the largest in the nation, with 5,500 faculty and staff serving more than 100,000 students annually at seven colleges and six satellite sites across the city. Colleges include Harold Washington, Harry S Truman, Kennedy-King, Malcolm X, Olive-Harvey, Richard J. Daley and Wilbur Wright.  We believe this partnership will greatly increase our percentage of bilingual and minority students.

UIC is also deeply engrained in the Hispanic community of Chicago. In fact, 28.2% of the undergraduate students at UIC are Hispanic. UIC has record enrollment for this fall with more than 29,000 students and the incoming freshman class (3,485) is 20.8% Hispanic.

The UIC College of Pharmacy is located just north of the Pilsen neighborhood, a historically Hispanic district of Chicago. Our address has given us unprecedented access to the nearby Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy and the UIC College Prep High School. The UIC College Prep High School’s students are predominantly Hispanic (67%), and the Career Academy was created by the Instituto del Progreso Latino specifically to prepare students for a college education in the health sciences.

We are also located mere blocks away from the Mexican Consulate of Chicago where we participate in Latin American Health Week. The UIC College of Pharmacy is a proud member of the Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools, and were the first pharmacy school to join their ranks.

This is where we are and what we do. Serving the underserved is our mission. And a Hispanic neighborhood is where we live and work every day.

Recruitment and Retention – How We Care

The UIC College of Pharmacy has created meaningful inroads into many underserved communities, and the groundwork is laid long before the UPHARM Program.  The Urban Pipeline Program (UPP) is for students in designated health sciences high schools in the City of Chicago. Juniors in the Chicago Public School system apply for chance to be in the program. Applicants must have two letters of recommendation, a 3.0 GPA and pass an entrance interview to be admitted to the program. The UPP combines classwork, mentorship and even an internship at local pharmacies, in order to prepare students for a career in pharmacy. At the end of their senior year, the UPP students become Certified Pharmacy Technicians.

We also recruit heavily from within our own undergraduate population, which is over one quarter Hispanic. Today, there are over 27 pre-pharmacy students who are part of the Honors College at UIC.  This is a diverse and talented group, one we pay close attention to.

As mentioned, UIC’s enrollment is growing, partly due to the university’s recent partnership (2015) with the City Colleges of Chicago on a program called Star Scholars. The program rewards qualified Chicago Public School graduates with a two-year tuition assistance scholarship to one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Upon completion of the City Colleges program, successful candidates are given a similar scholarship to UIC.

But the crowning achievement is still the UPHARM Program. UPHARM graduates receive the same great pharmacy education as their peers, but also focus on problems unique to underserved communities like the social determinants of health. The students learn how factors like health policy, economic status and race (among others) can effect healthcare decisions. And then they are given a chance to put that training into practice with community outreach programs.

Each year the UPHARM program performs much-needed community outreach programs. Last year alone they engaged in 50 hours of community service in underserved communities that engaged 150 people. These projects routinely involve meeting with local officials and community groups to determine the needs of the community, and then creating a coalition of organizations to deliver them. This creates many joint efforts between the College of Pharmacy and local organizations, but also provides real world experience providing health leadership in an underserved community.

Through our programs, we are making sure the right people are in all the right places.

Ingenuity and Improvement – How We Can Care for More

We intend to greatly expand the UPHARM program.  A partnership with the CVS Health and establishment of the CVS Health Urban Scholars Program will be a powerful tool in accomplishing that goal. It will serve as a powerful resource for attracting, retaining and graduating the world’s most talented pharmacists: pharmacists with cultural competency skills, pharmacists who will change the pharmacy workforce, and pharmacists who will contribute to CVS Health’s urban mission.

An investment of $48,000 a year over a five-year period ($240,000 total) from CVS will create The CVS Health Urban Scholars Program. With that, we can award six $8,000 scholarships a year to qualifying applicants. To qualify, a UPHARM applicant will need a PCAT score in the 90th percentile (or higher) or a pre-pharmacy GPA of no less than 3.5 on a 4 point scale and interested in working in urban and underserved communities.

With your investment, we could create even more pharmacists devoted to eliminating health disparities in underserved neighborhoods.

Programs, People and Purpose – Hope For The Future

The UIC College of Pharmacy is, literally, on a mission to help underserved populations and is perfectly positioned to do so. Our programs, our people, our purpose, everything in our make-up is driving us in this direction. But we can only do so much. As a public institution, our hands are tied by many outside economic forces. And that is why we look to partnerships like the CVS Health Urban Scholars Program.

The CVS Health Urban Scholars Program creates scholarships, but it is so much more.

It creates hope for communities who have lost it.

It creates change in a system that desperately needs reform.

It creates a better world for all.

And that is the world that we want to live in.

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