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$3M grant going to UM students pursuing health careers

Posted at 8:18 PM, Oct 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-01 23:53:02-04

MISSOULA – There could be a future doctor out there right now who will never get to be an MD because it might be too expensive, or they won’t get a lot of encouragement to even try.

But the University of Montana School of Pharmacy just received a new grant that could help bring the best and brightest to the forefront of medicine.

These are first year pharmacy students at the University of Montana. It’s a competitive and academically-tough program.

Not all will make it, for many reasons. A career in medicine is challenging enough, and for some, even more so.

But the UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy just received a new grant from the US Health Resources and Services Administration to assist future students who won’t have an easy road to graduation.

“They’re low income. They are first generation students. They might have been in a high school that had no science labs,” said Professor Lori Morin. “They may have come from a community with no role models. That means they need to have some help to catch up, to get up to speed when they’re applying to a particular health care program.”

The $3 million grant lasts five years and is two-fold: Providing some early instruction to pharmacy students—a preview to what they’re about to face when classes start, and a health careers academy that supports students during school with tutors and faculty mentors.

“Whatever it takes for them to be successful then that’s what we’re offering in the academy,” Morin said. “So we really want the students to be prepared when they are applying for professional school.”

This grant helps those students who enter school at a financial or educational disadvantage succeed. Then they might take their skills back to their own communities to be doctors, physical therapists or pharmacists.

Some college students may have to work to pay for school or have family obligations, trying to balance that with a very challenging degree in pre-med or pharmacy, this grant supports them so they can concentrate on school.

“The number I would give you is that, pre-meds across the nation, 70 percent don’t make it to their senior year. They become business majors or something else. We know that and we do everything to increase that retention,” said Dr. Mark Pershouse with the UM Dept. of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

A different grant recently helped 70 Native American students earn their degree in Pharmacy, a success story the Department hopes to continue with this new money.

The academy will also grant scholarship money to some students to help them so they don’t need a job while in school.

— For more information on the grant, you can email wilena.oldperson@umontana.edu.

Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News