The College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is the only pharmacy school in the country to receive the 2017 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
More than 140 institutions applied for the honor, which recognizes medical, dental, pharmacy, osteopathic, nursing, and allied health schools that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Only 23 schools received this recognition. They will be featured in the December issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.
Dean Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, FCCP, FASHP, FAST, said the UTHSC College of Pharmacy, with its statewide footprint, “is very much pro diversity and pro inclusivity,” starting from its strategic plan and carrying through recruitment, academic offerings, research, and community outreach.
“As it relates to students, starting with our pre-admission, we use a holistic admissions process,” the dean said. “This is something I advocate and impress upon all involved. Our admissions committee is wonderful. While academics are important — the grades and the PCAT scores are very important — other things are also stressed. We want to make sure we have a diverse student body in numerous ways, including geographical location, first-generation college students, and students from underserved counties within the state and beyond the state. We want a diversified student body because we know diverse health care teams improve health outcomes. It is about improving health for everyone.”
The college is dedicated to attracting and supporting first-generation college students. Dean Chisholm-Burns knows how important this is. She is the first person in her family to graduate from high school, and has achieved multiple higher degrees, including an MBA, which she completed while serving as dean. She and her husband have endowed two scholarships to help students who are the first in their family to achieve an undergraduate education. One of these scholarships is in the College of Pharmacy. The other is in the small town where her parents lived.
“We are committed to looking for diversity and underrepresentation, and our student body reflects that,” she said. The recent expansion of the regional tuition program to out-of-state students in a 200-mile radius of the college’s sites in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville further expands its reach and makes the college a more accessible and affordable option.
The college faculty embraces and supports diversity in all areas. The college has faculty practicing pharmacy and doing research to close the gap in health disparities. It also supports faculty participating in the Diversity Certificate Program offered at UTHSC. “This is something we hope to do annually,” the dean said.
In addition, the college’s community outreach focuses on diversity and inclusivity, seeking out neighborhoods with the most need. “In our strategic plan we have targets for diversification,” she said. “We teach about different cultural experiences,” she said. “Our international program is in more than 10 different countries. This program provides students with an opportunity to travel and learn pharmacy practice in other countries. In return, students from those countries come here for experiences in the United States.”
Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, said the Health Professions HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to recruitment and retention of students and employees, continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being accomplished every day across their campus,” Pearlstein said.
“The outcomes we see in diversity are a collective effort,” Dean Chisholm-Burns said. “Special thanks go to many, including our campus partners, stakeholders, the college’s offices of student and academic affairs, and our students, staff, faculty and administrators.”