Changing the Face of Pharmacy

CFPP student in a white lab coat in the lab classroom
February 22, 2021

St. John’s University’s founding mission is to provide an intellectual and moral education to all. Inspired by that enduring goal, the Urban Institute of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS) created the Changing Faces of Pharmacy: A Student Enrichment Program, aiming to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in its Doctor of Pharmacy program. The program recently received a $10,000 charitable donation from Cureatr, Inc., a comprehensive medication management and optimization technology and services company. 

“The lack of equity and diversity in health-care delivery is a critical concern that has cascading implications for patient care,” said Richard Resnick, Cureatr’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our active search for internal and external programs that address the issue directly led us to the doorstep of St. John’s Changing Faces of Pharmacy program, a shining example of a student enrichment program that focuses on diversity and inclusion for our next generation of pharmacists.”

Established in 2012, Changing Faces is an outreach program for high school students that introduces and broadens their understanding of the pharmacy profession. It includes mentoring, informational sessions, and networking as a means of helping to promote the pharmacy profession and other health professions among traditionally underrepresented groups. 

“Diversity is a cause that we constantly strive to achieve,” said Russell J. DiGate, Ph.D., Dean, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “I believe in order to accomplish this, our College must take proactive steps to ensure that all of our programs and policies promote this goal. The Changing Faces of Pharmacy program is a tangible and effective way of accomplishing our mission as a College and University.”

Through the semester-long program, high school students are paired with college students currently enrolled in the CPHS Doctor of Pharmacy program. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program included a full-day orientation session; hands-on laboratory sessions with faculty members; a St. John’s Men’s Basketball game; and a closing/recognition ceremony, where students received a personalized certificate and heard remarks from the College’s dean and other senior academic leadership. Since the advent of the pandemic, in-person activities have been transformed into virtual experiences. 

“I am very grateful for the hard work of our program’s faculty leadership team, which includes Hira Shafeeq, Pharm.D., Associate Professor and Coordinator for the Changing Faces program, and Manouchkathe Cassagnol, Pharm.D., Associate Clinical Professor and Assistant Director of the Urban Institute,” said John M. Conry, Pharm.D., Clinical Professor and Director of the Urban Institute. “Together, we seamlessly adapted the program to all virtual experiences for the spring semester, focusing on safety for all involved.”

He continued, “The Urban Institute remains highly committed to continuing the important work of this flagship program in 2021 and beyond. Despite the persistent challenges of COVID-19, our mission is unwavering and demands that we continue to offer this innovative and important programming to promote and enhance the awareness and knowledge of the pharmacy profession to underrepresented minority high school students.” 

Since its inception, the Changing Faces of Pharmacy program has provided mentoring services and education to more than 260 students from local high schools, including Archbishop Molloy High School, Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School, St. John’s Prep, Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Education High School, and Union Square Academy for Health Sciences. More than 90 St. John’s University Pharm.D. candidate students have served as mentors for the high school students enrolled in the program. 

“The program was a great introduction to the world of pharmacy,” said one student. “The interaction with my mentor was great, and it provided excellent insight into what the day of a pharmacy major looks like.”

According to Rachel J. O’Reilly, Director of CPHS’s Corporate and Foundation Relations, the support of organizations such as Cureatr has been a key to the program’s success. “Philanthropic support is vital to enabling CPHS to maintain this mission-driven initiative,” she said, “as well as to attract a diverse pool of talented students and create meaningful experiences for current and future students interested in pharmacy and the health sciences.”

“We are excited to receive outreach and interest in the Changing Faces program from high school students,” Dr. Conry added. “We are thrilled to have this new partnership and support from Cureatr, Inc. and know it serves to strengthen our program.” 

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