Grants from Covetrus and Hannaford to support diversity in pharmacy workforce

Pharmacy student gets ready to administer a shot

The University of New England, with generous support from Hannaford and Covetrus, is pleased to announce $150,000 in scholarship and research funding to UNE’s School of Pharmacy to advance diversity within Maine’s pharmacy workforce as well as in the pharmacy profession. These notable donations complement UNE’s strategic efforts to enhance diversity in its health professions programs.

The Hannaford Pharmacy Diversity Scholarship will be awarded to diverse students enrolled in the School of Pharmacy, with a preference for those in the Advanced Standing Track (AST) for Foreign-Trained Pharmacists. The AST provides an accelerated degree path for students who were previously educated abroad, offering the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm. D.) in three years and position the graduate to achieve licensure in the United States.

The Covetrus Diversity Scholarship will support pharmacy students who actively contribute to nurturing a more diverse and inclusive community at UNE and who have an interest in veterinary pharmacy. Through their gift, Covetrus is also sponsoring UNE faculty research to further study and understand the barriers to diversity in veterinary health.

“We are grateful to both Hannaford and Covetrus for their generous support of our students,” said Robert McCarthy, Ph.D., FAPhA, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Many immigrants and refugees who come to Maine have received professional education and training in their home country, but lack the credentials needed to practice in the United States.  Moreover, finances often prevent them from seeking the additional preparation needed; the support from both our corporate partners will play a significant role in reducing these barriers.”

The scholarship and research funds further deepen UNE’s rich history and bright future with both companies.

In 2007, Hannaford pledged $1 million to support capital costs for establishment of the School of Pharmacy. Since the School’s opening in 2009, Hannaford pharmacists have provided essential clinical rotations to more than 200 UNE pharmacy students at their community pharmacies in Maine and New England. Hannaford has also been a generous supporter of annual scholarships for UNE Pharmacy students for many years.

“Hannaford is proud to support a high integrity pharmacy program like the one that UNE offers,” said Wendy Boynton, RPH, director of Pharmacy Operations at Hannaford. “We are encouraged that this scholarship program will provide pathways and support for diversity among local students in our communities.”

Covetrus, a global leader in animal health technology and services based in Portland, partnered with UNE in 2018 to launch a career pathway for UNE pharmacy students interested in veterinary pharmacy, a rapidly growing profession. UNE and Covetrus have launched an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience for fourth year pharmacy students at Covetrus’ Portland, Maine headquarters. Covetrus is also collaborating with UNE in development of a Veterinary Pharmacy Track. UNE and Covetrus plan to formalize their research partnership, highlighting shared goals for the veterinary health professions.

Announcement of the Hannaford and Covetrus scholarship gifts come at a time of rapidly changing demographics across the state as more asylum-seekers settle in Maine. Maine’s population of pharmacists remains predominantly White, and, nationally, fewer than 2% of veterinarians are Hispanic and almost none are Black. Diversity-focused scholarships such as these will help create access for diverse students, which in turn will help the pharmacy workforce better reflect Maine’s changing population.

“It’s imperative as leaders in animal health to provide accessibility for all and foster diversity and inclusion among the next generation of veterinarians and pharmacists,” said Dustin Finer, chief administrative officer at Covetrus. “The veterinary industry should reflect the pet parents we serve in the communities we service — and that means making space for diverse candidates.”  

According to McCarthy, UNE’s Pharmacy dean, Pharmacists are the most accessible health professionals available without an appointment. As refugees and asylum seekers seek medical advice, McCarthy said, they turn to their local pharmacists.

“With their diverse backgrounds, hiring graduates of UNE’s AST pharmacy program can be invaluable in caring for such vulnerable populations,” McCarthy noted.

Such sentiments were reflected when UNE President James D. Herbert, Ph.D., recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security in Washington, D.C. In his testimony, Herbert argued that intentional recruitment of students who look like the communities we serve is an integral part of solving the health care workforce crisis.

“Studies have found that minority patients who are treated by clinicians who look like them are more likely to use needed health services and are less likely to delay seeking care,” Herbert said on May 20, speaking to a crowd of government officials and academic colleagues.

As the state’s largest educator of health professionals, UNE has a unique opportunity to help shift the demographics toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, and such efforts are already working. Of the more than 1,000 UNE pharmacy graduates since 2009, 35% have been students of color.



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