Rural communities historically have faced challenges in recruiting health care providers, thereby limiting residents’ access to health care. After he graduates, PharmD student Kenneth Leutz will change that for one community as he launches his career as a pharmacy manager in Florence, Arizona.
Leutz will practice in a new Sun Life Family Center office, with 12,100+ square feet that includes 12 exam rooms, a laboratory and a drive-thru pharmacy, opening in September. “The position lines up with why I started practicing in a rural community in the first place,” Leutz said. “I can go beyond being a pharmacist and be a consistent source for providing quality health care in a community that is underserved.”
Leutz credits his interest in working outside of urban metropolitan areas to the Rural Health Professions Program (RHPP), which aims to address the health professional shortage and expose students to the benefits of working in smaller communities. As part of the RHPP, he completed three clinical rotations in underserved communities, as well as worked in a Sun Life clinic in Casa Grande for a year and a half.
The RHPP began in 1997 and provides medical, pharmacy and nursing students with clinical experiences in rural communities throughout Arizona. Thanks to increases in funding, the RHPP has been able to expand from recruiting four pharmacy students to 22 participants each year. In 2015-2016, the RHPP supported 195 rotations in rural, underserved Arizona communities.
The town of Florence has had extremely limited access to a pharmacist. The pharmacy in the new Sun Life clinic will be the first one open in the downtown area in more than 10 years. “I have heard that there is quite a bit of anticipation for the new pharmacy from the community,” Leutz said. “This is critical for them as they have not had consistent access to integrated pharmacy services for several years.”
This summer, Leutz will be focused on setting up the pharmacy and ensuring it operates in accordance to the law. “Between getting registered as a community pharmacy, gaining insurance contracts, purchasing inventory, and all the other logistics of opening a new pharmacy, there is a lot to manage,” Leutz said.
When the pharmacy opens, Leutz’s goal is to provide efficient and quality health care. He is responsible for overseeing pharmacy processes and assisting patients and providers with medication questions and medication management.
Elizabeth Hall-Lipsy, RHPP director, added that students like Leutz are exactly the type of individual they are hoping to graduate from the program.
“Kenny is such a great example of why the RHPP was created, to identify and support students who are interested in practicing in rural or underserved communities. He’s a great example of what can happen when we expose students to the opportunities available to them and real need for their services in rural and underserved communities here in Arizona.”
Pictured: Kenneth Leutz, PharmD, Class of 2017