November 16th is National Rural Health Day, a time to focus on the ever-growing needs to provide improved health care to underserved communities.
The USC College of Pharmacy is making great strides in improving the health of patients living in rural South Carolina. One of the college’s initiatives, the Tandem Health-USC pharmacy residency program, has been renewed for another three years through a grant from the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare. The postgraduate year one residency based at Tandem Health in Sumter, South Carolina, is the only federally qualified health center in the state to provide a pharmacy residency program.
The program originally launched in 2020 as part of an effort to increase access to care for patients living in rural areas. After a year to create the program, the program accepted its first resident in 2021 and the number of clinical pharmacists providing care at the center has grown from one to seven in that same period.
Reagan Barfield, ’19, serves as program coordinator for the Tandem Health-USC pharmacy residency program.
“The residents coming through our program are able to practice in an ambulatory care setting as well as a rural setting,” she says. “They learn about social determinants of health and how they factor into guideline-directed medical therapy, while also learning how to find the best possible medications that the patient can afford. The program allows pharmacists to help bridge the gap for patients who do not always have access to care.”
The program allows pharmacists to help bridge the gap for patients who do not always have access to care.
The first three years of the program have resulted in an increase in the amount of pharmacy services available in the area, an increased number of rotational opportunities for students, and implementation of new services for Tandem Health.
“We have a great deal of interest from graduating students in the residency,” Barfield notes. “Most programs see an average of 15 applicants per available position, but we have averaged 30 applicants each year. This demonstrates that there is tremendous interest in serving the rural population.”
The program achieved an eight-year accreditation from the American Society of Health-system Pharmacists during its initial approval process, an incredible accomplishment for a new pharmacy residency program.