Geoffrey M. Curran UAMS

Nearly three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the lowest vaccination rates in the state (and nationwide, for that matter) remain concentrated in rural areas, and that means that rural pharmacists are pretty crucial when it comes to messaging around vaccine safety and efficacy.

A new program from the National Institute of Health is providing $1.8 million in funds, Arkansas Advocate reports, to address vaccine hesitancy in rural areas, and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences professor Geoffrey Curran has been tapped as one of the program’s chief developers. Trained as a medical sociologist, one of Curran’s specialties is implementation science — the science of how we adopt evidence-based practices into our daily lives and health routines. (He’s also a member of the band Mulehead and the mastermind behind a supra-fun one-man surf rock project called The Supraphonics). He’ll team up on the project with Delesha Carpenter, a professor at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

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“The communication intervention that we are developing is guided by the expertise of the pharmacists and patients who work in rural areas. They are the drivers of the intervention’s content,” Carpenter said of the project. “For this reason, we believe the intervention will be salient to people living in rural areas and not sound like canned messaging that was developed by people who don’t understand the concerns of patients in these communities.”

“I see this grant as a culmination of an idea we have had for a number of years,” Curran said. To “build a network of rural community pharmacies and then leverage their ideas, talent and commitment to move pharmacy practice forward.”

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