Thursday, January 13, 2022

As a first-generation college student from a low-income immigrant household in rural Iowa, Doctor of Pharmacy student Milagro Michels-Cordao embodies the resilience it can take to even make it to college in the face of life’s adversities.

Milagro Michels-Cordao

“I have been wonderfully privileged to have the right roadblocks removed to stand here with you today,” Michels-Cordao told a group of hundreds of state and local leaders recently. “And that is a lifelong goal of mine: To help others remove their roadblocks.” 

As she spoke, she wore the white coat of the pharmacist, topped by an Iowa button. Her remarks were made at a ceremony dedicated to the highly-accessible new pharmacy building.

Removing life obstacles for others is the very spirit of advocacy and empowerment that University of Iowa leaders who are passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) foster.

At the College of Pharmacy, many of these efforts have been led by faculty member Jeanine Abrons.

Part of Abrons’ strategy involves cultivating passion and directing strategy for such work among students and other members of the college community. The work she promotes is building a more diverse, and equitable college that helps students from diverse backgrounds succeed. It also is addressing inequities—including expanding access—in healthcare.

Jeanine Abrons

Abrons is a clinical associate professor. She is director of student pharmacist international activities in the Pharmacy Practice and Science Department, as well as a co-director of the University of Iowa Mobile Clinic, and is involved in many DEI-related endeavors. The UI Mobile Clinic is a student-led organization that works to improve health equity through community partnerships at 14 sites. 

“Pharmacy graduates can be agents of social change,” Abrons said. “We teach them about social determinants of health so that they can most effectively improve health equity in their careers.”

Abrons leads a reading group for faculty, staff, graduate students, and UI community members to discuss social justice issues specific to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and health science-related fields. She is ex-officio (past) chair of the collegiate DEI committee.

Through organizations, Abrons—also a co-advisor for the American Pharmacists Association (APhA)  Academy of Student Pharmacists—has empowered students to incorporate DEI topics into meetings and activities. She recently received a 2021 Pinnacle Award from the APhA Foundation for her global leadership in medication management for underserved populations.

Abrons has worked with DEI Officers at the university level and trains students on cultural intelligence and social change for incoming students and students preparing to go out on rotations. “It focuses on components of your own cultural lens and how to become more successful in cross-cultural communications,” Abrons said.

She also trains incoming pharmacy and medical students how to personally respond to micro- or macro-aggressions against themselves or others in professional settings. College-wide, the DEI committee has encouraged the use of personal pronouns as a way to be more inclusive, on email signatures, name tags, and the like. Abrons has also led faculty and staff training on implicit bias in hiring practices. 

As the University of Iowa celebrates Unity Week 2022, an annual celebration of growth in diversity, education, and inclusion, the College of Pharmacy acknowledges and honors Jeanine Abrons. Her passion in raising awareness in the college is unmatched and her commitment to fostering change is commendable. We are grateful for her unwavering dedication and expertise.