August 31, 2017 | Pharmacy |
Harding’s College of Pharmacy celebrated with students, faculty, legislators, members of the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, and the Arkansas Pharmacist Association as a check for $275,000 was presented to Dr. Jeff Mercer, dean of the College of Pharmacy on Aug 31. The funds were granted to the University as part of a new rural loan program.
The loan program, established by the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, gives students the opportunity to receive a tuition loan that would not require repayment if they meet certain criteria. Students have the option to apply for the loan in the third or fourth professional year of the pharmacy program.
For students who are granted the rural loan, immediately following graduation the student must practice pharmacy full time for 36 consecutive months in an Arkansas community of less than 15,000 people, which must also be located at least 15 miles from the nearest incorporated municipality or city with 50,000 or more inhabitants. Once these criteria are met, the loan will be considered paid-in-full.
Mercer shared that more than 40 percent of Harding’s pharmacy students are from Arkansas, and he has already started to see their excitement about this loan program and feels that it will be utilized.
“What I hope to see is that students take the opportunity to consider locations that they may not have previously considered to practice,” Mercer said. “I hope that students find an opportunity to serve in areas that really need them. I think this provides incentive for them to do that.”
Mercer shared that this loan program is another way students can use the pharmacy profession to carry out the Christian mission of Harding.
“I’ve always felt like the Christian mission of Harding and the service mission of pharmacy go hand-in-hand,” Mercer said. “This fits with that same mission and is an opportunity to serve throughout the state. Pharmacists are among the most accessible health care providers in the community. You can go see your pharmacist any time you choose, so placing pharmacists in underserved health care areas provides a great opportunity to make our communities healthier.”
Les Eaves is a state representative for District 46, which includes Searcy and Kensett, Arkansas. He was approached by John Kirtley, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, with the opportunity to implement this program that they had previously started at another university. The board felt that this would expand Harding’s program and encourage young pharmacists to practice in Arkansas. Eaves shared his sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing a project like this to fruition.
“It’s absolutely the best part about being a legislator,” Eaves said. “I get to see the whole process from beginning to end and then to see the people who it truly affects and how it benefits those people, those kids and young adults going forward in their career.”
Tom Warmack serves as president of the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy and is an alumnus of Harding. He spoke to Harding’s growth as a pharmacy program and the quality of students it has produced over the years. He too feels that this rural loan program helps carry out the University’s mission of service.
“It gives you a chance to exercise Christian ethics when we’re dealing with a world where people are interested in taking care of themselves and what’s best for me,” Warmack said. “This gives you an opportunity to reach out from that. For all professional schools, the mission should be to serve; Harding’s motto is that we serve.”