Campus News

‘Heels on a bus’ share insights with trustees

Projects to promote community pharmacists and compassionate care show the impact of Carolina’s service to the state.

Stefanie Ferreri
Stefanie Ferreri of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy told trustees about the Rural Pharmacy Health Initiative. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

In introducing the Tar Heel Bus Tour presentation to the University Board of Trustees at their Nov. 10 meeting, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz emphasized how the three-day trip not only inspires future research but also shows participants how the University is serving the state.

“We visited communities from Elizabeth City to Marion to see all the ways that our University benefits from its deep roots in North Carolina and had a chance to see some of the research that our faculty and staff are conducting in the communities, especially those that are in need, across the state,” Guskiewicz said.

Two faculty members provided specific examples of their work, highlighted in stops on the Oct. 19-21 “listening and learning” tour that took 78 faculty, staff and administrators on two buses, one headed east and the other west.

Importance of community pharmacists

On the east route, the tour stopped at the McDowell Pharmacy in Scotland Neck, where four generations of family pharmacists have been providing important health services in a rural community. Community pharmacists like the McDowells are actually “the most accessible health caregivers,” especially in rural communities, said Stefanie Ferreri, Henry L. Smith & James L. Olsen Distinguished Professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Ferreri spoke about the Rural Pharmacy Health Initiative, an Eshelman program designed to support and expand community pharmacy services in rural areas. Its three goals are student recruitment, residencies and scholarships, and residency hubs to provide interprofessional education and extend clinical services.

“We’re expanding our rural health workforce. When our students graduate, they stay in North Carolina,” Ferreri said. “Over the next 10 years, we’re not going to have enough primary care providers, and community pharmacists can help fill that gap.”

Collaboration for compassionate care

On the west route, the tour visited the Kannapolis-based Substance Use Network Project, which provides compassionate prenatal care for pregnant patients with substance use disorders. Assistant professor Teshanee Williams of the School of Government explained how the SUN Project’s collaborative approach has improved health outcomes for mothers and children.

Teshanee Williams

Teshanee Williams of the School of Government shared her research on the SUN Project. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Before the project, “the patients were overwhelmed because providers weren’t collaborating well and there was no legal infrastructure to support collaboration,” Williams said. A School of Government legal team helped providers navigate confidentiality laws that interfered with coordination of care and sharing of information.

In the SUN Project’s structure, the clinic provides maternal health care, mental health counseling and nutrition services, and the governance arm addresses systemic issues and advocates for better policies to help pregnant patients. The care coordination team meets monthly with representatives from 11 different organizations “to make the magic happen,” she said.

Raising nonresident tuition rate

Trustees voted on a proposal to raise the nonresident tuition rate for undergraduates by 5%, following the recommendation of Nathan Knuffman, vice chancellor for finance and operations and chief financial officer.

The increase, which impacts only 11% of the total student body, would bring Carolina closer in line to its peers. Knuffman estimated the increase would generate an estimated $5.8 million annually, with 52% going to cover instruction costs such as faculty pay and benefits. Resident undergraduate tuition and most fees would remain flat, reflecting the University’s continued commitment to affordability. The board’s recommendation will now go to the UNC Board of Governors for consideration.

Carolina has been named No. 1 best value among public universities by U.S. News & World Report for 18 straight years, and this increase should not impact its reputation for high quality education at a low cost.

“Two-thirds of the graduates of UNC graduate with no student debt. And students who do graduate with debt, on average, have a debt that is $10,000 less than the national average,” said Board of Trustees Chair David L. Boliek Jr. “That’s something that we certainly are, and should be, proud of.”

Watch a recording of the Nov. 10 Board of Trustees meeting online.