Marshall University Infuses Cultural Competency into Pharmacy Education

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With the population becoming increasingly diverse, it’s essential that tomorrow’s academic healthcare professionals and scientists are schooled in cultural and ethnic differences.

Despite national awareness of the importance of diversity, the demographic profile of many health-related professions, including pharmacy, continues to fall short of mirroring the population change. Traditionally, health professional schools have focused on the benefit of diversity from a patient care standpoint and not necessarily from an educational standpoint.

Moreover, the importance of diversity in the pharmacy profession is far-reaching, and it affects more than the historically-targeted categories of women and racial and ethnic minorities. Thoroughly understanding and fostering diversity can help academicians develop curriculum programming and diversity initiatives that meet the needs of students.

The core element for increasing diversity is inclusion, and inclusion can only be achieved by nurturing the organizational climate and culture through education, research, policy, practice, and development. Promoting the benefits of diversity fosters respect and appreciation of different intellectual abilities, cultures, lifestyles, and professional experiences. All are vital skills for faculty, staff, and students.

Diversity Approach
Marshall University School of Pharmacy works diligently to attract a diverse student body, faculty, and staff, and we strive to expose our students to the diverse clinical, economic, and psychosocial needs of patients. Our active learning curriculum approach supports the activities that help celebrate diversity in all its many forms.

We developed, implemented, and expanded on the resources, courses, and training of cultural competency in pharmacy education. Our cultural competency training focuses on the reality of evidence-based health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations; the importance of providing culturally-competent care and communication to meet the health needs of diverse patient populations; and exposure to cultural diversity. Overall, students are grounded in cultural awareness and sensitivity because we have integrated cultural competency within the existing pharmacy curriculum to allow for the necessary lessons and training.

Diversity is embedded within the curriculum programming, using experiential learning, interdisciplinary teams, and volunteer extracurricular programming and activities to celebrate and support it in all its many forms.

Holistic Admissions Process
Our holistic educational review is conducted to ensure that the best possible candidate is identified for admission to Marshall University School of Pharmacy. The holistic admissions process assists with enhancing student body diversity as a means of achieving the mission-based excellence we seek. The process requires each candidate to be considered as a whole individual, with focused attention on scholastic accomplishments and other factors such as motivation, industry, communication abilities, and community activities.

The Flipped Classroom
Our “flipped classroom” teaching method was designed to stimulate higher-level thinking and meaningful interactions in the classroom. The curriculum includes laboratory, simulation, small group discussion, and experiential learning methods. Each method of learning lends itself to various active and interactive styles of learning.

The school uses a broad range of strategies and techniques to deliver a curriculum that meets the diverse learning needs of our students. The “flipped classroom” is where the student receives the foundational material prior to class, and the class time is spent in active learning. Typically, several instructors are in the classroom facilitating and assisting the student as needed.

Our emphasis on active learning is pervasive throughout the curriculum and fosters problem-solving skills and critical thinking. All classroom instruction is recorded and available to the student to review within hours of the completion of the class. The physical layout of the classroom is that of a studio, which optimizes the functional structure to deliver the curriculum.

The benefits of the “flipped classroom” model include instant feedback, less student frustration because instructors can guide them through difficult problems, closer student-instructor relationships, and more collaborative learning among students.

Interdisciplinary Teamwork
The concept of interdisciplinary education is a top priority at the School of Pharmacy. We are effectively engaged with providing team experiences for our students with others in the healthcare field. Team-based healthcare that includes a physician, a pharmacist, a nurse, a physical therapist, and others is essential for delivering the best care available to our patients. Interdisciplinary education provides more opportunities for our students to practice the skills they need as future practitioners.

The changing organization, financing, and priorities of the healthcare system along with an evolving, more diverse population are creating new imperatives for interdisciplinary teamwork.

Well-coordinated collaboration across professions can potentially allow comprehensive, population-based, cost-effective patient care as well as a new emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention essentials for meeting contemporary healthcare challenges.●

Shelvy L. Campbell, PhD, is assistant dean for diversity for Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine & School of Pharmacy in Huntington, W.V.