SIUE School of Pharmacy Addresses Racial Inequities in Healthcare

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“There are two public health crises going on in this country—COVID-19 and racial injustices.” This is the viewpoint of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy’s (SOP) Lakesha Butler, PharmD, a national leader in conversations related to the growing relationship between the pandemic and the racial divide.

SIUE’s Lakesha Butler, PharmD, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and clinical professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice.

We are committed to taking a more intentional and deeper dive into the topic of racial inequities in healthcare.

“There are two public health crises going on in this country—COVID-19 and racial injustices.” This is the viewpoint of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy’s (SOP) Lakesha Butler, PharmD, a national leader in conversations related to the growing relationship between the pandemic and the racial divide.

As president of the National Pharmaceutical Association, Butler recently led a joint coalition of 14 national pharmacy organizations in taking a collective stand against racial injustice with a statement release. The united statement is available in full at NationalPharmaceuticalAssociation.org.

“For both crises, we have a subset of people who are disproportionately suffering,” Butler said. “We see that with COVID-19, as it is plaguing underrepresented minority populations. Because of the lack of opportunities for Black people or other underrepresented minorities, oftentimes they have to go out and work at potentially lower-paying jobs. They are potentially right in the face of many people in the public, being exposed to COVID-19.”

Butler is the SIUE SOP’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a clinical professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice. She is leading the School’s efforts to address such disparities and take action outside of and within the SOP.

“We are committed to taking a more intentional and deeper dive into the topic of racial inequities in healthcare,” Butler emphasized. “The foundation of all of this is systemic racism. We’ve seen this woven throughout the fabric of our country for hundreds of years, and unfortunately, the Black community has been a recipient of this treatment resulting in a higher prevalence of specific disease states.”

Expanding on its strategic goal to cultivate diversity and inclusion, the SOP is bolstering curriculum to directly address racism. Faculty has traditionally discussed racial disparities in clinical trials and within disease states, such as the higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes among Latinx and Black people. They will now delve deeper into the disparities throughout the curriculum.

This fall, Butler will begin teaching topics of systemic racism and social determinants of health in Pharmacy and Population Health, a newly required third-year course. Butler also teaches the required second-year Health Promotion and Literacy course, which will further explore systemic oppression and racism, toxic stress, and the negative health outcomes associated with chronic trauma in the spring.

“We will specifically discuss the historical and current context of why these inequities exist,” Butler said. “It is important for us to make it known that racism, not race, significantly contributes to health inequities."

Today’s pharmacists improve patients’ lives through the medication and education they provide. Dedicated to developing a community of caring pharmacists, the SIUE School of Pharmacy curriculum is a model that offers students a unique combination of classroom education, research, community service and patient care. The School of Pharmacy’s areas of excellence include a drug design and discovery core; pediatric practice; chronic pain research and practice; and diabetes research and practice. As the only downstate Illinois pharmacy doctorate program, the SIUE School of Pharmacy is providing highly trained pharmacists prepared for the rapidly changing healthcare environment.

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