November 3, 2015

The past two decades have seen the rise of a new kind of business venture called “social entrepreneurship.” Social entrepreneurs build businesses that seek to generate social capital as opposed to financial capital.

The primary goal of social entrepreneurship is to create a social benefit, but unlike philanthropic or welfare organizations, these ventures are businesses that generate revenues to ensure sustainability and services.


Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, describes social entrepreneurs as “mad scientists in the lab. They’re harbingers of new ways of doing business.”

Examples of social entrepreneurship include Grameen Bank, a pioneer in the field of microfinancing, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, a supporter of “venture philanthropy” efforts that fund small pharmaceutical companies who are developing drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

During our recent Town Hall Meetings, I discussed our upcoming “Beyond Practice Ready” campaign and the launch of two Student Operated Pharmacies. The pharmacies will be situated in medically underserved areas of the region and serve as prototypes for neighborhood healthcare.

The Student Operated Pharmacies are a natural extension of the service-based activities that students and alumni of the College have practiced for years. The new pharmacies will build upon this history of community engagement to bring about positive change in a broader and more permanent way. These will be win-win initiatives by providing our students with unique educational experiences while at the same time serving the local communities.

Students will benefit by having entrepreneurial-based opportunities that may require them to work outside their comfort zones. This environment will present challenges, but our students will be rewarded with the satisfaction and gratification that comes with giving back to their communities.

With these pharmacies, we will be improving access to critical pharmacy and health care services for communities who struggle to obtain primary care. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, an estimated 45% of the primary care needs of New Your State go unmet.

Recently, retail clinics such as CVS’s Minute Clinic have added services to fill some of the void in primary care. These clinics have seen success in affluent areas for their ability to provide timely and economical treatment of low acuity conditions. I believe that this “convenience clinic” model can provide even greater benefit to lower income areas.

The Student Operated Pharmacies offer a good example of social entrepreneurship. They will be operated as not-for-profit enterprises and will be hubs for community engagement. We will forego traditional front end sales and opt instead for counseling rooms and a small classroom. We plan to offer a wide range of services including medication therapy management, point of care screenings for chronic conditions, and health information sessions.

Our long term objective is for these pharmacies to evolve into community wellness centers that help effect healthy lifestyle changes, one neighborhood at a time. In so doing, we will fulfill the vision of a true social entrepreneurship program.

Greg Dewey, Ph.D., is President of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

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