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Mariava Phillips
May 30, 2023

The Tar Heel Bus Tour bus in 2022. Photo credit: Jon Gardiner, UNC-Chapel Hill

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy received two Tar Heel Bus Tour grants that support research projects addressing some of the health care needs of North Carolinians.  The purpose of the grants is to foster collaborative research stemming from ideas or conversations that occurred as a result of the 2019 and 2022 Tar Heel Bus Tours.  

One grant will help educate underserved youth in rural communities about various health issues, and the other will help develop training for pharmacists to help reduce opioid overdose deaths.  

After a 10-year break, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz brought the bus tour back in 2019. It had another pause from 2020-2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic but came back stronger than ever in 2022 with two buses – one bus heading east, the other west – and more than two dozen stops across the state.  

The tour aims to help Carolina faculty and senior administrators learn about the state, understand the University’s impact, introduce participants to people, ideas and programs that inform their teaching and research and identify opportunities for service.  

Betsy Sleath, Ph.D., Regional Associate Dean Eastern North Carolina and George H. Cocolas Distinguished Professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy (DPOP), received one of the grants to help engage pharmacy students with the Conetoe Family Life Center Summer Camp for Underserved Youth. 

The Tar Heel Bus Tour project funding is provided by UNC Rural and the Carolina Center for Public Service. It will support students and faculty from the School who will work with youth from the camp this summer. The aim of the camp is to provide an enriched curriculum for campers that includes teaching them about chronic disease states, medication management, nutrition through the camp garden and to build health awareness. 

“I hope it encourages student pharmacists to consider a career working in rural areas, and that it inspires youth from rural North Carolina to consider becoming a pharmacist,” Sleath said.  

The second project is supported by a 2023 Tar Heel Bus Tour Grant through Carolina Across 100. Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D., MSPH, associate professor and executive vice chair in DPOP, received the grant to help reduce opioid overdose deaths by developing community pharmacy training about fentanyl test strips.  

A recent survey by Carpenter showed that pharmacists are willing to provide these lifesaving test strips. The next step is to ensure they receive the proper training. 

“I hope this grant allows us to develop a training that helps pharmacists understand the basics of fentanyl test strips and how to sell them so that they can help reduce opioid overdose deaths in their communities,” Carpenter said. 

The School has a 125-year history of service to the state. These grants, along with the Tar Heel Bus Tour, help the School continue that tradition of service to all North Carolinians. 

The bus tour continues in 2023 over fall break, Oct. 18 through Oct. 20. Faculty and senior administrators can apply to be a part of the tour. 

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