Touro College of Pharmacy’s Center of Excellence

Touro College of Pharmacy Lands $3 Million Grant to Increase Profession’s Underrepresented Minority Workforce and Serve the Underserved

January 10, 2023
Dr. Vickie Powell, left, holding framed Certificate of Appreciation, after it was presented to her by TCOP Dean Dr. Henry Cohen.
Dr. Vickie Powell, site director of pharmacy operations at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, received Certificate of Appreciation from TCOP dean, Dr. Henry Cohen

Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP) has been awarded a five-year $3 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities (URM) in pharmacy.  Through a newly established “Center of Excellence,” TCOP will provide training and opportunities for pharmacy faculty and students to address minority health issues and social determinants of health impacting underserved communities in New York City.

“We are honored to be chosen for this grant,” said TCOP Dean Dr. Henry Cohen. “The Center’s goal is to leverage the growing role of pharmacists in patient care by enhancing the diversity of pharmacists, expanding access to culturally sensitive care, and improving patient outcomes - especially with chronic diseases like asthma and hypertension, which disproportionately affect minority communities.”

Nationally, Black/African-American and Hispanic students are underrepresented in pharmacy programs, according to data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. In fall 2020, URM accounted for 18.2 percent of pharmacy students nationwide, which does not come close to matching the racial and ethnic/cultural diversity found in the city’s five boroughs.

“As the only four-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program in Manhattan, which is home to many healthcare facilities, community organizations and a rich and diverse culture, TCOP is well-positioned to establish a Center of Excellence to serve NYC,” noted Project Director and Assistant Dean of Assessment/Associate Professor Dr. Bupendra Shah. “The Center will enhance the pharmacy workforce pipeline with racially diverse, culturally competent pharmacists.” 

Mission to Serve Underserved

In recent remarks to students hailing the new funding, Dean Cohen stressed that the Center of Excellence is in keeping with the school’s mission to promote wellness in underserved populations.  

“Our mission is to develop the next generation of pharmacists vested in promoting wellness and improving health outcomes – especially among our medically underserved populations,” said the dean. ”Through the training you receive at TCOP, you will be well equipped to address health disparities in your communities. This program has all the ingredients needed to help you succeed.”

The Center’s activities have already begun. A Faculty Speaker Series was launched recently with Vickie Powell, B.S., PharmD, MS and site director of pharmacy operations at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Powell addressed students, faculty and alumni about the importance of advancing health equity. She discussed the skills and impact pharmacists have and encouraged students to share what they know with underserved communities.

Future activities will include a Summer Boot Camp for high school students and college freshmen and sophomores to explore the pharmacy profession and career options.

Also planned are hiring of a Teaching and Learning Specialist; enhancement of peer tutoring; establishment of programs to help students plan careers; enhanced training in cultural competency for both students and faculty; and opportunities to research health disparities in underserved communities under supervision of faculty and a new Health Outcomes Fellow.

Enrollment Barriers to be Addressed

Barriers to pharmacy enrollment are expected to be addressed, such as cost and length of education. Some of these impediments are anticipated to be overcome through stipends and scholarships, and linkage agreements with undergraduate colleges that allow qualified URM applicants to complete their PharmD education at TCOP a year earlier than usual.

Linkage agreements already exist between TCOP and 11 institutions of higher education in the tristate area including four City University of New York (CUNY) colleges: Lehman College, Brooklyn College, Hunter College and Medgar Evers College. Most of the 11 schools have significant URM enrollment. On average, 25 percent of students recruited from TCOP’s linked schools have been Hispanic and 20 percent have been African American and most of the URM students have come from a CUNY system school. Going forward, the Center plans to increase recruitment efforts of URM students from the existing linked schools as well as to add new partnering schools.

As they progress through the TCOP curriculum, URM students will receive their clinical training in community-based healthcare settings throughout the culturally and racially diverse boroughs of NYC, to address both minority health issues and social determinants of health. These include The Mount Sinai Health System, St. Barnabas Hospital and Health System, and Bronx Heath Care Network. New partnerships with hospitals and other community-based organizations are planned.