Make It Five: UAMS College of Pharmacy Business Plan Team Wins Nationals Again

By Benjamin Waldrum

It’s the fifth time in nine years that a team from UAMS has won the National Community Pharmacy Association’s (NCPA) Good Neighbor Pharmacy Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition. Teams from the college won in 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2020.

In the competition’s 18-year history, no other college’s teams have won as many times as UAMS. The NCPA announced the 2021 winners in late fall last year at its virtual annual convention.

“I’m so proud of this team and how it has advanced the legacy of this competition at the UAMS College of Pharmacy,” said Dean Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D. “This student competition has been embraced within the curriculum like no other. The profession of pharmacy in Arkansas is a huge facilitator in building energy among the student body as the state has a high number of independent pharmacies, and many of our preceptors are former business plan competitors in the local and national competitions.

“This team and their faculty coaches have done a tremendous amount of work to make this performance a reality,” Stowe added.

COP team presenting

The team presents their novel business plan at the competition.Seth Heldenbrand

The competition drew participants from 23 schools and colleges of pharmacy across the country. A team from the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy and one from the Medical University of South Carolina were first- and second runner-up, respectively.

The UAMS team included captain Jason Lam and team members Michael Kramer, Bobby Le and Rachel Foshee. Seth Heldenbrand, Pharm.D., the college’s associate dean of experiential education, served as the team adviser, with Schwanda Flowers, Pharm.D., serving as co-adviser.

“We were extremely proud of this year’s team, and they put in a ton of effort practicing their presentation several times a week from August through October,” said Heldenbrand. “Their efforts paid off with an excellent presentation at the national competition.”

The NCPA business plan competition is the first national competition of its kind in the pharmacy profession. Named in honor of two great champions of independent community pharmacy, Neil Pruitt Sr. and H. Joseph Schutte, its goal is to motivate student pharmacists to create a business model for buying an existing independent community pharmacy or developing a new one.

UAMS students opted for a novel plan: enhancing pharmacy services at an existing pharmacy. Enhanced pharmacy services are any services beyond filling and refilling prescriptions. These services can include immunizations, comprehensive medication reviews, aligning medications with patients’ medical records and synchronizing refills so patients make fewer trips to the pharmacy.

Glenwood, Arkansas, is an underserved area, with a ratio of one provider for every 2,700 patients. Patients must drive an average of an hour to receive enhanced pharmacy services. Using a well-known Glenwood pharmacy as an example, the team created a business plan to acquire the surrounding plaza, including a pediatric clinic and gym. These areas were then integrated into the pharmacy’s available services, greatly expanding its impact.

The idea was to turn Glenwood from “an enhanced pharmacy services desert to a flourishing oasis,” said Foshee, the plan’s lead writer.

“We know that other pharmacies in larger cities are already starting to provide these services,” Foshee said. “Although our niche may not seem unique to some, enhanced pharmacy services are truly unique to our rural area. We hope to show other rural area pharmacies the many ways these services can help their community.”

It took months of hard work, in addition to coursework and rotations. It paid off with a first-place win and another point of pride for the college. For Lam, the win represents a dream fulfilled.

“Ever since my first year of pharmacy school, I’ve always dreamed of presenting on that national stage, and now that has become a reality,” said Lam. “The members of this team are what really made it the dream team, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Le said the win was like getting a big paycheck after putting in long hours of overtime.

“The amount of time and energy we put into this plan in addition to our normal coursework was astounding,” Le said. “The bonds formed and experience gained was more than enough to cover the number of hours spent. Taking home the ‘W’ at nationals was just icing on the cake. If I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.”

For Foshee, who now lives in rural Arkansas, the win is more personal.

“Coming from a small town outside of Glenwood, this plan was so special to me, and winning made me even more excited to be a pharmacist in a rural area,” said Foshee. “This competition has taught me so much about pharmacy ownership, and I am blessed to have met so many amazing pharmacy mentors throughout this experience.”