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New scholarship helps ETSU pharmacy students go into independent pharmacy

Rex Barber • May 31, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Fourth year pharmacy student Stephanie Gordon Elliot always thought she would go into retail pharmacy in a small chain. In the past few years, though, she has realized that she wanted to do something more with pharmacy and that opportunity exists in a small community setting, she said.

Elliott, from Jonesville, Va., and Arissa Vaughn, Kingsport, both will get the opportunity to work in a small independent community pharmacy upon graduation from East Tennessee State University’s College of Pharmacy through a new scholarship provided by Cardinal Health.

The scholarship also will provide for half their tuition for their final year of school, which is next year.

Elliott and Vaughn are the first recipients of the scholarship at ETSU.

“It means a lot,” Elliott said of the scholarship. “It’s more than just a scholarship amount, it’s an opportunity.”

Steve Lawrence, vice president of independent sales at Cardinal Health, said his company started these scholarships about a year ago at various pharmacy schools for final-year pharmacy students to entice them to go into independent pharmacy.

“Once they graduate we’re going to partner them, hopefully, with an independent (pharmacy) owner who is ready to transition their business and that way we can keep the pharmacy independent and keep the level of patient care where it needs to be,” Lawrence said.

Vaughn has worked at Wilson Pharmacy for around five years. She said the independent pharmacy setting is the place for her.

“I definitely want to stay in independent pharmacy and hopefully one day maybe in 10 to 15 years own my own pharmacy,” she said. “I think that would be great.”

Lawrence said about a decade ago, independent pharmacies were shrinking in number. Now those kinds of pharmacies are increasing slightly. Many independently run pharmacies are expanding into niche areas of health care, like providing immunizations or providing education on topics like diabetes.

Elliott said that kind of niche expansion is what draws her to independent pharmacy practice.

Lawrence, whose company provides prescription medications to independent pharmacies, said the care provided at small pharmacies is significant for the communities in which they operate.

“I’ve spent most of my career working with independent pharmacies and the level of patient care they provide, they’re an access point for health care, which is a big issue today in health care,” Lawrence said. “Access to health care professionals is a challenge, as many people know.”

Vaughn said her time at Wilson Pharmacy has shown her how influential an independent pharmacy can be in a patient’s care.

“I know with the patients at my pharmacy that I have interacted with, I had a relationship with them,” she said. “I feel like I know them beyond their medications, like we actually have a relationship. I know about their families, and it’s just what makes me excited to get up everyday to go to work.”

Cardinal Health funded the scholarship program at ETSU with a $125,000 gift.

Each year the College of Pharmacy’s Scholarship and Awards Committee will select one or more scholarship recipients through a competitive selection process.

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