New pathway programs funded by the California Health Care Foundation

Two new programs are being developed to expose possibilities and opportunities for applicants to pharmacy school in California’s central San Joaquin Valley, thanks to funding from the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF).

Acknowledging the degree to which greater diversity among health care professionals results in improved access and higher patient satisfaction, the programs are aimed at reducing the health care disparities of pharmacy deserts by cultivating interest in—and demonstrating multiple pathways for—pharmacy careers among underserved communities.

Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm, saw the California Health Care Foundation as a natural match for the programs, aligning with CHCF’s mission of achieving health equity by making meaningful change possible in California’s health care system.

“The goal of these programs is to increase access to underserved populations while making PharmD education more available and equitable to students in these communities,” Giacomini said. “It’s important that we realize as many opportunities as possible to obtain funding for and enhance these programs, which deliver on our strategic plan and which strengthen our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.”

PharmTech-to-PharmD program

Executive Vice Dean and faculty member Sharon Youmans, PharmD, MPH, will be the program director of the UCSF PharmTech to PharmD Program, which takes a proactive step toward upskilling pharmacy technicians.

According to The Race and Ethnicity of the California Health Workforce, a January 2022 report (PDF, 83 pages, 3.5 MB) prepared by the Beyond Flexner Alliance at the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, Hispanics make up 40 percent of the California labor force, yet only 3 percent of pharmacists in the state are Hispanic.

Meanwhile, in sharp contrast to the low numbers of Hispanic pharmacists, pharmacy technicians in California are predominantly Hispanic, and represent 51 percent of all pharmacy technician graduates in the state, according to the California Health Care Foundation’s research (PDF, 2 pages, 257 KB).

“Pharmacy technicians are essential to the delivery of pharmacy services to patients, especially in community and hospital pharmacies, as well as other patient care settings,” said Youmans. “Some technicians are interested in pursuing a PharmD degree but may not know how best to pursue this path. This program can help individuals map out a strategy and make informed decisions about pharmacy career options.”

UC Merced - UCSF BS to PharmD Program

Co-Vice Dean for PharmD Education and faculty member Igor Mitrovic, MD, will be the program director of the UC Merced - UCSF BS to PharmD Program, which is designed to remove structural barriers by developing an expedited program for students to obtain a bachelor’s degree from UC Merced in three years, followed by another three years to obtain a PharmD degree from UCSF.

The program’s long-term goal is to train pharmacists who will return to the San Joaquin Valley or other underserved regions in California to deliver culturally and linguistically competent health care.

“The reality is that a lot of underrepresented people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are not even seeing physicians. They may not be able to afford medical insurance, and so they rely primarily on pharmacists to get their health care needs met,” said Mitrovic. “The obvious path to helping them would be through pharmacists and pharmacy.”

Mitrovic describes the program’s creation as a true partnership, one that builds on strong collaborations between UCSF and UC Merced through the San Joaquin Valley PRIME+ pathway program. “UC Merced is a remarkable place, with creative, fantastic educators who are keenly aware of the lack of medical services because they live there,” he said. “They are genuinely invested in improving this situation for the sake of their community.”

More details about both programs are forthcoming.


School of Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.