UAMS College of Pharmacy Business Plan Team Takes National Award for Fourth Time for Most Wins Ever

By Ben Boulden

It marked the fourth time in eight years a team from the college has won the National Community Pharmacy Association’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition. No other college’s teams have ever won the competition as many times in its 17-year history. The association announced the 2020 winners Oct. 18 at its annual convention, which was held virtually.

UAMS team members were team captain Marissa Johnston and team members Brittany Butterfield, Patrick Gurley and Byron Johnson. The team advisers were Seth Heldenbrand, Pharm.D., the college’s associate dean of experiential education, and Schwanda Flowers, Pharm.D., adjunct associate professor.

The 2020 competition drew participants nationwide from 27 schools and colleges of pharmacy. Teams from the University of Iowa and the University of North Carolina respectively were runner-up and second runner-up.

Team members, left to right, Gurley, Johnson, Johnston and Butterfield log in for the live video question-and-answer session in early October with the NCPA competition judges.

Team members, left to right, Gurley, Johnson, Butterfield and Johnston log in for the live video question-and-answer session in early October with the NCPA competition judges.

“All the college’s faculty and staff are so proud of the business plan team, and what it has achieved in making the College of Pharmacy the winningest team in the competition’s history,” said the college’s Dean Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D. “They and the teams before them have shown that striving for excellence and a commitment to developing an entrepreneurial spirit are hallmarks of the College and something we have sustained over many years. This competition is a celebration of independent pharmacists and a natural extension of one of the greatest pharmacy strengths in the State of Arkansas – improving the health and wellness of Arkansans through pharmacists delivered care.”

Business plan teams from the college previously placed first in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

Titled “Functional Pharmacy,” the team’s winning business plan was centered around the idea of using advanced testing and telehealth in an integrated way to identify the root causes of chronic diseases in individual patients who have them, Gurley said. One of Gurley’s mentors — Michelle Crouse, Pharm.D., and a pharmacy owner — helped him early on to develop the concept for the plan.

The four further developed it as part of an elective entrepreneurship course Heldenbrand and Flowers teach. Once selected to compete nationally, the team began working toward presenting its plan at the association’s convention this fall in Nashville. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person convention was cancelled. The three finalist teams then had to prepare video presentations by mid-September and participate in early October in a live video question-and-answer session via Zoom. That meant moving up their deadlines by a month.

Nevertheless, Johnston and Gurley said, the team came together to overcome those challenges, separately and together contributing hundreds of hours of work to the effort.

The NCPA student chapter at the UAMS College of Pharmacy received $3,000, and an additional $3,000 was contributed in the dean’s name to promote independent community pharmacy at the college. Team members, advisers and the dean also will receive complimentary registration, travel and lodging to NCPA’s 2021 Multiple Locations Conference this February in Florida.