Hampton University School of Pharmacy alumni now manage 3 Walgreens in Hampton, Va
By: Maya J. Boddie '16
For many years, there has been a lack of African-Americans in the STEM and healthcare field, including pharmacy. Three graduates of the Hampton University School of Pharmacy have extraordinarily defied the odds. Dr. Jamaal Allen ('14), Dr. Rob Sweeney('13), and Dr. Ulysses Martin, III ('08), all African-American males, recently accepted general management positions at three out of the four Walgreens in the city of Hampton, Va.
In the 25 top pharmacy programs for African-Americans on bestcollegesforblacks.com, Hampton ranks #4 graduating approximately 45 students each year. Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut says "the media images you see of scientists are older white males who are goofy or socially inept in some way." She continues, "It (media) doesn't include role models for young black [and Hispanic] students." These three men can be the change that the world of pharmacy needs to see.
A former health physicist, Martin always desired to enter the field of pharmacy. Being older than both Allen and Sweeney, and graduating earlier, he has been able to be a mentor during their journeys.
"Ulysses would say 'keep pushing, keep pushing,'" said Sweeney. "Peer support really helps. Sometimes you'll get support from people and sometimes you won't." That's what Sweeney said motivated him to work hard and continue on his path to success. His mother, a nurse, and his father, a technical expert, always pushed him to reach his full potential.
On the other hand, it was Allen's younger brother, who suffers from autism that inspired him to become a pharmacist. "There were too many instances where I have had to hold and watch my brother suffer through seizures growing up. So the path to pharmacy was ultimately chosen for me," said Allen. He continued, "Then after attending and completing my tenure at pharmacy school I ended up wanting to help not only with my brother's treatment but I found my passion to help everyone in the community that I can reach."
Martin believes that mentorship and being introduced to math and science early is what will inspire other young black males to work in the field of pharmacy.
"Benjamin, my 8-year-old son" he says, attended a Lego workshop this summer, and loved it. That's how we introduce our boys to this field."
Dr. Sweeney said, "Many black men would pursue more if they had awareness."
In 2008, Walgreens committed over $1 million annually for diversity in pharmacy schools. The corporation chose to provide each of the 111 accredited colleges nationwide with $10,000 every year to aid their efforts at increasing diversity among pharmacy students.
Hampton University's School of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Wayne Harris ensures the program's commitment to increasing the representation of minorities, especially African Americans, in pharmacy.
"African-Americans make up 12 percent of the nation's population, and that percentage is not nearly reflected in the field of pharmacy," Harris said, "so we invest in our young people to make that happen."