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College of Pharmacy

  • Pharmacy student with preceptor

Tackling Rural Care Disparities

Partnerships, programs aim to bolster health care in underserved areas

Associate Professor Whitney Maxwell received support in 2018 in partnership with the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare to encourage utilization of student rotations in rural areas.

“The goal was to help bolster student interest in selecting rotations in rural areas,” says Maxwell, associate director of experiential education at the College of Pharmacy. “Students design a rural health action plan to assist a community and present it in hopes that either they or their preceptor might be able to put the plan into action.”

The Pharmacy Advancement in Rural Experiential Development program partnered with the Palmetto Experiential Education Partnership to create the PAIRED with PEEP program.

Heather Hembree, '20, decided to participate in PAIRED with PEEP as she learned more about health care disparities in rural areas. She completed six of her nine rotations in rural areas during her fourth year as a pharmacy student.

“During my PAIRED rotations, I focused on both improving access to vaccinations and counseling patients on their disease states to improve health care literacy,” she says. “It was such a rewarding experience. My favorite part of the PAIRED program was being given the opportunity to implement the health service plans that I created and see the positive impact on the patients with whom I interacted.”

Hembree says the PAIRED program also made her realize that working in a rural health care setting required versatility and ingenuity.

“Sometimes you’re forced to think outside the box to allow more access to care or to get a specific treatment for a patient,” she says.

We are working to help create a pipeline of students prepared to serve in rural areas ...

Whitney Maxwell, Pharm.D.  Associate Director, Experiential Education

Maxwell’s hope is that more pharmacists will choose to pursue their careers in rural settings.

The program received a second grant from the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare in 2020 to continue as the Pharmacy Advancement in Rural Experiential Development to Expand Collaboration, Entrepreneurship and Leadership in Rural Communities (PAIRED to ExCEL) program through 2022.

Through this grant, students will take part in a rural health academy prior to beginning their rural rotations and will actually implement the rural health action plan they design.

“We are working to help create a pipeline of students prepared to serve in rural areas,” Maxwell says. “Through PAIRED to ExCEL, we are developing strong leaders in our profession.”


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