Dr. Olihe Okoro Receives UMN Community-Engaged Scholar Award
Dr. Olihe Okoro, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is the 2022 recipient of the University of Minnesota President’s Community-Engaged Scholar Award. This award is the highest honor the University gives annually to one faculty or staff member for exemplary community-engaged scholarship that embodies the University of Minnesota’s definition of public engagement. This is a well-deserved recognition of Dr. Okoro’s many accomplishments.
Dr. Okoro’s research and scholarly efforts, her teaching portfolio and service activities within and beyond the University, all aim to address the health disparities affecting underserved communities, specifically, African-born (AB) Immigrants and African Americans (AA). In the course of her work she engages specific communities to seek understanding of the nuances and the mechanisms by which social determinants and structural inequities result in poor health and outcomes. Her resultant community-engaged scholarship then helps shape policies and develop programs that more effectively meet the critical health needs of Black/AA communities.
Within her research and scholarly activity, Dr. Okoro has addressed HIV disparities; racial health disparities, particularly in the context of COVID-19; the enhancement of COVID-19 vaccinations through targeted grass-root efforts in the community; and presented findings of her work to health systems, health services agencies, foundations, schools, community-based organizations and news media so that collectively all might use the findings to address structural inequities.
In her teaching capacity Dr. Okoro draws on her community-engaged work in addressing health disparities to highlight the need for more relevant content in the pharmacy curriculum, towards building provider cultural and structural competencies that will facilitate healthcare delivery that is culturally-sensitive and responsive to community needs. She not only challenges educators, but works collaboratively to develop strategies for effectively integrating these into learning.
With the nature of her health disparities research and community-engagement, there is substantial overlap between her scholarship, teaching, and service. Dr. Okoro is instrumental in promoting diversity and inclusion in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the college, and the University. This includes involvement with our college’s Black/African American affinity group, the Multicultural Pharmacy Students Organization on the Duluth campus and the Students of Color/International Students Mentoring Program at UMD, just to name a few of her activities. In the community she has worked collaboratively with community-based organizations including the NAACP, Community Partnership Collaborative 2.0, and Healthy Alliances Matter (dba Health Equity Northland) on research projects and co-authored scholarly work for dissemination.
“Dr. Okoro’s notable career as a health disparities researcher, teacher, community-engaged scholar, and mentor exemplifies the University’s definition of public engagement. She is incredibly deserving of this recognition,” said Lynda Welage, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy.
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Founded in 1892, the University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy is the only pharmacy school in Minnesota, with campuses in the Twin Cities and in Duluth. The College of Pharmacy improves health through innovative education, pioneering research and interdisciplinary practice development that attends to the diverse needs of the people of Minnesota and the world.