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Updated: August 4, 2021

UNE gets $150K to boost diversity in pharmacy workforce

Courtesy / University of New England The University of New England will use $150,000 in scholarship and research funding from Hannaford and Covetrus to advance diversity within Maine's pharmacy workforce and in the profession.

The University of New England will use $150,000 in grants from two Maine companies to advance diversity in Maine's pharmacy workforce and more broadly in the profession, the school announced on Tuesday.

Funding comes from Portland animal-health company Covetrus Inc.(Nasdaq: CVET) and Scarborough-based Hannaford Supermarkets, each of which is giving $75,000 to UNE.

While Hannaford's contribution will support scholarships, Covetrus is providing $60,000 for scholarships and $15,000 for research, a UNE spokeswoman told Mainebiz.

“We are grateful to both Hannaford and Covetrus for their generous support of our students,” said UNE School of Pharmacy Dean Robert McCarthy. "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 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 for Foreign-Trained Pharmacists.

That track provides an accelerated degree path for students who were previously educated abroad, offering the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree 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 its gift, Covetrus is also sponsoring UNE faculty research to further study and understand the barriers to diversity in veterinary health.  

UNE has campuses in Biddeford, Portland and Tangier, Morocco, and is Maine's largest private university by enrollment. The School of Pharmacy, based in Portland, is one of two programs in the country Covetrus is funding to support diversity in the veterinary sector; the other beneficiary is the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Together, Covetrus will provide $15,000 in scholarship funds every year for four years, from 2021-2024, to each institution to support students who demonstrate financial need, are in good academic standing and contribute to the diversity of those institutions.

In its announcement Tuesday, Covetrus cited a 2020 survey from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges that found admission offer were lower from candidate from racial or ethnic groups, Pell Grant recipients, first-generation college students, candidates from rural communities and those aspiring to practice in rural communities.

Another report, by the nonprofit National Association for Black Veterinarians found that the number of Black veterinarians dropped from 2.1% of the total veterinarian population in 2016 to below 1% in 2019, saying that was largely due to accessibility and lack of diverse leadership.

"These scholarships represent an important step in advancing the animal-health industry to be more inclusive and a better representation of the wide range of ethnicities and backgrounds of the pet owners they serve," Covetrus said.

UNE said in its release that as Maine's largest educator of health professionals, it has the unique opportunity to help shift the demographics toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

The school noted that efforts are already working, with 35% students of color accounting for more than 1,000 UNE pharmacy graduates since 2009.

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