ABHP Talks with Dr. Clarence Curry

March 17, 2016

We hosted an in-depth interview with a pharmacy leader, Dr. Clarence Curry.

Dr. Clarence E. Curry, Jr., is a longtime Howard University pharmacy professor, who has recently retired from the regular faculty. Dr. Curry is an ambulatory care pharmacist who served in a variety of roles at HU including a number of years as Associate Dean. We asked him to reflect on some pressing issues.

When you see his responses, hopefully you will be as inspired as we were.

table at chair

Are there enough Black Pharmacists? Is there a shortage?

Dr. Curry, in typical scholarly fashion, brought us through a thorough exploration of the question, punctuated by what he deemed as the heart of the matter; “it depends on what you want the pharmacist to do.” If we only look at the percentage of black pharmacists to the black population, the likely answer is yes. But isn’t that too simplistic? He indicated that we are beginning to see an expansion of non-dispensing services offered by pharmacists. And, although we are in the aftermath of having seen the creation of many new schools contribute to a surplus of pharmacists in general; and leaving schools facing issues such as student reports of having greater challenge in finding employment; there remains an opportunity for the contemporary pharmacist to greatly impact the health of America and especially, our minority communities. So we should ask ourselves, “what services are pharmacists able to provide that will improve patient outcomes?”

We must individually and collectively construct and execute plans to do it. “What do people (patients) want from the pharmacist? How much do they know about what we are capable of providing them?” Pharmacists of color should take especial interest in establishing viable contemporary practices in our “own” communities that have the ability to positively impact known problems and conditions. So, is there a need for more black pharmacists? Yes, but we should connect this need to the needs yet to be met in our community.
Is entrepreneurship a reasonable consideration for black pharmacists? “Entrepreneurship is a path that a prepared black pharmacist might take.” After appropriate preparation, including enhanced education in pharmacy operations (or other important pharmacy practice or pharmaceutical industry concepts where necessary) as well as the key elements of successful entrepreneurs, an inclined and motivated pharmacist can pursue an area of need and personal interest having the potential to impact both the health and economics of the community.

“Where do we get more pharmacists from?” Dr. Curry emphasized, “the key is to encourage students from an early age and expose them to our profession. Our passion and commitment toward pharmacy and patients should be easily seen by these young people. We should embrace and convey to them that a successful pharmacy career requires as much stamina and long-term commitment as a medical career; it’s not just a “shortcut” to becoming a medical doctor.”

How have you seen pharmacists close health disparities?

On the matter of how we might affect health disparities, Dr. Curry responded, “If we aim to practice in local communities where disparities exist, pharmacists must demonstrate awareness and knowledge of those disparities. A purposeful approach must be employed to address them. Desired results might best be obtained by focusing on a specific, measurable problem or disparity where the development and application of either new or established strategies would lead to identifiable outcomes. However, at the end of the day, a minority community or any community benefits when a pharmacist exhibits interest in and focus toward professional practice that best serves the needs of patients. ”

Dr. Curry goes on to add, “It’s been my hope for decades that pharmacy practitioners come to see professional practice as the most important thing they can do.” As we see our profession moving towards increased collaboration with other health care providers, we can expect to be scrutinized more closely, and we must be prepared to routinely practice at the highest level of skill. “What we learn in school is not enough.” Maintaining life-long learning is non-negotiable and is paramount such that the care we deliver to African American communities or any community is truly HIGH LEVEL CARE.

What are your thoughts on financing pharmacist-led services and pharmacist provider status?

He also mentioned that all practice environments need to reward pharmacists for their skill and preparedness to practice at a level well beyond minimum competency. An emerging era in which pharmacists gain provider status will demand consistent application of high level skill, not to mention, care documentation. The practice arena is where we find the largest number of pharmacists and so we should want pharmacy practice (in any setting) to yield its highest and best possible outcomes. If we move in that direction, everyone; patients, pharmacists, and employers should find it rewarding. That is the mindset we must instill in all of our graduates.

Concerning provider status, Curry echoed what is being said throughout the profession that pharmacists have to make receiving reimbursement for non dispensing services, wherever offered, a priority. He also emphasized that health technology is another aspect of the rapidly changing health care landscape that we cannot afford to ignore, particularly given the many current examples including electronic health records, health kiosks, internet-based programs and any number of tele-medicine and tele-pharmacy opportunities available to patients.

Finally, specialty pharmacy products is another fast emerging area cited by Dr. Curry because of its multi-billion dollar cost and the expected growth and increase in use of these medications. “It is important for African American pharmacists and those concerned with minority health issues to look at mechanisms and strategies to ensure that our communities have access to specialty pharmaceuticals; many of which are used to treat disorders that are commonly found among our communities. Specialty products developed as cancer treatments, diabetes therapies, drugs for transplant patients and other costly therapy, have the potential to create a better quality of life. Access to these products and the corresponding drug therapy monitoring needed for effective use makes this a service area not to be forgotten or ignored.”

We are pleased to have had the time to speak with Dr. Curry, and look forward to providing you with more thought-provoking and inspiring ABHP talks with leaders in our profession.

Jan, 2016, Washington DC.

Biographical Sketch


Clarence E. Curry, Jr., is Associate Professor Emeritus, College of Pharmacy, Howard University. He completed pre-pharmacy studies at Clark College (now Clark-Atlanta University), earned the BS in Pharmacy degree from Mercer University’s Southern School of Pharmacy and the Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Duquesne University. He also completed a residency in pharmacy at the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh. Dr. Curry’s principal pharmacy practice has been in ambulatory care and his drug therapy interests in hematology, gastroenterology and neurology. He has contributed to patient care in various Howard University Hospital Clinics and clinical services including family practice, neurology and the Center for Sickle Cell Disease. In 1998, he was named Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academies of Practice (NAP), and is now recognized as a Fellow in the Academy. He has served as senior author or co-author on many chapters in noted pharmacy texts. And he has authored other publications and made many presentations at a variety of professional meetings.

Dr. Curry received a 1993 Searle Fellowships in Pharmacy Program Mentor Award and the 1995 HU College of Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences Alumni Association Faculty Recognition Award. He received three honored faculty awards from students over the years. In 1998, Dr. Curry was named to the Sigma Xi College of Distinguished Lecturers. Dr. Curry’s interests evolved to include a focus on contemporary learning methodology including problem-based learning (PBL) and technology applications in curriculum design. He gained insight about potential pharmacy applications of PBL through participation in the Options in Health Sciences Education Program at the University of New Mexico, School of Medicine. He was selected as a Summer Scholar at New York University to focus on integrating technology with student-centered learning methods.

In recent years, he was a Visiting Fellow in the University of Delaware’s Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education, a PBL-focused institute. Experiences at NYU and Delaware led to collaborations with colleagues in using technology to support large class format PBL techniques in developing pharmacy practice skills. His efforts also include heading the Teaching and Learning Faculty Scholars Program of the HRSA-funded Center of Excellence (COE). In addition, he has been featured by the Howard University Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Assessment (CETLA) as an HU “Teacher of the Month.”

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