Collegiate Professor to address Chicago's "pharmacy deserts"

Photo of Dr. Zenk in her officeRecently named Nursing Collegiate Professor Shannon N. Zenk, PhD, MS '99, MPH, RN, FAAN, has been selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, which will support her efforts to reduce the burden of pharmacy closures on access to essential medicines for residents living on Chicago’s West and South Sides.

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 a newly named RWJF Clinical Scholar. Together, the scholars will tackle the burden of "pharmacy deserts" by partnering 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.”

Zenk's long record of excellence in research, scholarship and teaching also led to her selection by Dean Terri E. Weaver as the college's only Nursing Collegiate Professor, one of the highest honors in the UIC College of Nursing. She will be celebrated with a formal investiture ceremony on April 5, 2018.