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Mariava Phillips
February 12, 2024

Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D.

The Rural Research Alliance of Community Pharmacies (RURAL-CP) is the first multi-state practice-based research network (PBRN) exclusively for rural community pharmacies. PBRNs work to identify clinical questions of interest to health care professionals and design studies to answer those questions. Although other pharmacy PBRNs exist, before RURAL-CP, none have focused exclusively on rural community pharmacies.  

The RURAL-CP’s mission is to reduce rural health disparities by supporting high-quality implementation research. This network will identify pressing research priorities in rural pharmacies and evaluate the implementation of pharmacy practices in rural areas with the goal of amplifying the voice of rural pharmacies as policy changes are enacted that can impact their viability.  

RURAL-CP was established by a team of pharmacy researchers across seven colleges of pharmacy and is currently led by Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D., associate professor and executive vice chair of the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.  

“With RURAL-CP, pharmacists separately complete surveys, interviews or participate in clinical trials, but it’s their collective responses that allow us to demonstrate their impact,” said Carpenter. 

The characteristics of rural pharmacies in the RURAL-CP were gathered through a survey and are described in a recent Clinical and Translational Science article. The survey covered topics such as business operations, human resources management, division of clinical responsibilities, organizational context, communication and research preferences, and technology and enhanced services.  

Understanding the environment each pharmacy comes from and the top issues facing each pharmacy will help the RURAL-CP establish next steps. The results revealed that rural pharmacies offer a variety of important services to their communities and are interested in expanding—especially around point of care testing, immunizations, and diabetes-related services.  

The survey also provided information on what types of projects each pharmacy is interested in. Focusing on service reimbursement is a high priority, with the desire to prevent “pharmacy deserts” as rural pharmacies continue to close. 

The network currently operates in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee—focusing exclusively on the Southeastern region of the United States. Recruiting for RURAL-CP began in 2019 and is ongoing, currently there are 139 enrolled pharmacies. Pharmacists interested in joining should contact RURAL-CP’s program manager, Abigail Gamble. 

“Because we have many pharmacies, we are well-positioned to demonstrate the impact that rural pharmacies make in their community on a large scale. This should allow us to advocate for rural pharmacies, which are facing unprecedented financial pressures,” said Carpenter. 

Other members of RURAL-CP include Stephanie Kiser, BScPhm, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy; Geoffrey Curran, Ph.D., and Megan Smith, Pharm.D., from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Ashley Chinchilla, Pharm.D., University of Georgia; Tessa Hastings, Ph.D., University of South Carolina; Tyler Melton, Pharm.D., University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Meagen Rosenthal, Ph.D., University of Mississippi and Salisa Westrick, Ph.D., University of Auburn. 

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