Professor Will Address 'Pharmacy Deserts' on Chicago's South and West Sides

Photo of Dr. Zenk in her officeUIC Nursing professor Shannon Zenk has been named to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Clinical Scholars program.

The Clinical Scholars program is a leadership development opportunity for practitioners from diverse fields in healthcare. Scholars form interdisciplinary teams of clinicians that collaborate across sectors, tackling complex health problems in their communities, and building a “Culture of Health” across the United States.

Zenk will conduct her project with UIC Pharmacy professor Dima Qato, also just named an RWJF Clinical Scholar. Together, they will attempt to reduce the burden of pharmacy closures on access to essential medicines for residents living in pharmacy desert communities on Chicago’s West and South Sides. The scholars will partner with local pharmacies, community health centers, and community health liaisons to establish a “pharmacy referral service” where prescriptions are filled and then delivered to patients in need. If preferred, patients can also request transportation services to and from a local pharmacy.

In order to strengthen their capacity to influence policy and population health, the two UIC professors will also assemble an Access to Medicines Advisory/Advocacy Committee (AMAAC) that includes stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, including pharmacy retailers. In collaboration with local public health and policy officials and community residents, the AMAAC will advocate for legislative changes that prevent closures from occurring in at-risk communities. A series of town hall meetings is also planned.

“By engaging with the community and key stakeholders, we will gain a better understanding of how specific policies and regulations of the city of Chicago, such as Tax Increment Financing, influence decisions on the opening and closing of pharmacies across Chicago’s segregated communities,” says Zenk. “Our goal is to promote greater transparency and accountability of the impact of such policies on barriers in accessing and adhering to prescription medications at the local level.”