Tom Mattei, associate dean of Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy, started his career as a pharmacist working in the Hill District. So telling an audience of Hill residents and stakeholders at the former AUBA Church on Centre Avenue that the university would open a community pharmacy in that spot this fall, he said was a thrill.
“I always wanted to thank my former patients from the Hill for all they did for me when I was starting,” Mattei said during the April 22 announcement. “I can’t think of a better way than this.”
The Hill District has been without a drugstore since Eckerd closed 10 years ago. Since then, residents have had to go Downtown, to Oakland, to the South Side or the North Side for pharmacy services.
The initiative is the first off-campus community pharmacy in the country operated by a university school of pharmacy. It was welcomed by community leaders as a much needed component in the Hill’s revitalization.
“Welcome home to the neighborhood,” said Hill Consensus Group Chair Carl Redwood Jr. “I want to thank the university leadership and staff for being here. This pharmacy will not only bring vitally needed services, but will also add another step to the rebuilding of the Hill and the Centre Avenue corridor.”
The pharmacy, to be located at 1860 Centre Ave. in the Triangle Shops, will be staffed by Director Teri Kroh and as many as six pharmacists, and a number of assistants—all from the university’s pharmacy school. But it will be more than a pharmacy, said University President Charles Dougherty.
“This is something that’s never been done before. This effort provides accessible, affordable health and education services,” he said. “It is also a unique opportunity for student and faculty community engagement, education and critical care.”
In addition to prescription services, the pharmacy will provide screenings and tests for a number of chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
Esther Bush, Urban League of Pittsburgh president and CEO, called the news “exciting.”
“When you see something like this become a reality in the Hill, and be the first in the nation, this is outstanding,” she said. “I’m very pleased the university is doing this in the community rather than on campus.”
Victor Rogue, interim Hill House president, asked rhetorically, “Is this a big deal or what?”
“I cannot tell you how important this will be for the community,” he said. “People will now be emboldened about how far the Hill can go.”
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, said he would be a partner and would help any way he could.
“This (space) was a church, and Duquesne is a faith-based entity—so this can’t fail,” he said.
Hill County Council and City Council reps. Bill Robinson and Daniel Lavelle also praised the university and pledged support, as did representatives for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.
J. Douglas Brinker, dean of the pharmacy school, said the university is excited to provide clinical services to the Hill community.
“The addition of a pharmacy rounds out our umbrella approach to community service,” he said.
The university is putting $600,000 into renovating the current church space and expects the pharmacy to open in November.
(Send comments to cmorrow @newpittsburghcourier.com.)