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Diversity Gets Boost at School of Pharmacy

by Kukla Vera
“We need more African-American and Latino students studying to become pharmacists,” Cathey said.

Photo/Kukla Vera

The USC School of Pharmacy officially launched the Dean’s Initiative for Diversity with Walter Cathey named as the special assistant to the dean on diversity.

“This initiative will proactively work to increase diversity among our student population,” said Dean R. Pete Vanderveen.

To accomplish this, the initiative will undertake a multitiered approach, introducing the profession of pharmacy to students starting in middle school and continuing through high school and the undergraduate years.

“Many youngsters are unaware of the prestigious role of today’s pharmacist on the health care team and of the many career doors that pharmacy opens,” Vanderveen said.

The initiative strives to change that with a program that introduces young people, particularly students of color, to pharmacy.

“Simply put, we need more African-American and Latino students studying to become pharmacists. I have enlisted an advisory group to help me enrich the ranks of pharmacy students from under-represented groups,” said Cathey, who was the only African-American student in his USC Pharm.D. Class of 1962.

Over Cathey’s 46-year career, he has owned and operated pharmacies, held executive marketing positions with national pharmaceutical distributors, handled government contracts for a large health maintenance organization and worked on policy issues for a research and development company. Currently, he is CEO of the Institute for Community Pharmacy, a nonprofit organization that promotes community pharmacy.

“This initiative will pair interested undergraduates with Pharm.D. graduates, exposing them to the various venues open to pharmacists, the typically high salary level and the contributions that pharmacists make to the health of America,” Cathey said. “I have put together an Advisory Board for Diversity to help make this happen.”

Cathey plans to make sure potential students recognize that pharmacy professionals can choose from a variety of practice sites. These include community pharmacy, managed care, hospital pharmacy, pharmacy education, government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry.

“Today’s pharmacists play a pivotal role in our health care continuum. I want students of color to know about our profession and the high degree of satisfaction it provides to those who pursue it,” said Cathey, who recently met at the school with Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally and Vanderveen to discuss the new initiative.

Members of the Advisory Group for Diversity include alumni Gustavus Aranda PharmD ’04, Andrea Cooper PharmD ’95, Esan Forde PharmD ’05, Dolly Harris PharmD ’77, Mario Jimenez PharmD ’77 and Adrienne R. Matthews PharmD ’03.

Faculty representatives are Roberta Diaz Brinton and Mel Baron, who is also an alumnus. Kari Trotter Wall PharmD ’03, an alumnus and director of the UPC Pharmacy, is also part of the group. Current students in the group are Yazmin O’Quinn and Paul Vasquez.

Planning is under way to reach Southern California students through the initiative.

“As an African-American who has achieved success and great satisfaction through my pharmacy career, I want to lend a hand to today’s minority students and help them realize their dreams,” Cathey said. “Part of this effort is to simply get out and let students meet professionals � like pharmacists � who look just like them.”