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Three Pharm.D. students from China began classes at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy this September, thanks to a first-of-its-kind scholarship partnership.

The students are supported financially by the China Scholarship Council, which signed a five-year agreement with the School last year. The partnership is the first the CSC has had with any pharmacy school.

Feiyun Ma, Xiaorui Fu and Lirong Yang are the first of as many as 35 Pharm.D. students who can earn scholarships from CSC to attend the School over the next five years. The organization will also offer up to 25 Ph.D. scholarships during this timespan. The seats occupied by CSC students are in addition to the School’s normal enrollment.

In 2016, the CSC provided financial assistance to approximately 110,000 Chinese citizens studying abroad, as well as to foreign citizens studying in China.

“We have 300 different agreements in place with various universities and businesses around the world,” said Jinghui Liu, Ph.D., secretary-general of the CSC. “This is our first partnership with a school of pharmacy, and it will create a special model for education in pharmacy teaching, research and practice.”

In China, students interested in studying pharmacy can earn a bachelor’s degree, and some can earn advanced degrees. Unfortunately, unlike the Pharm.D., those programs have little focus on patient care, said Stephen Eckel, Pharm.D., M.H.A, associate dean for global engagement at the School.

The program will increase the School’s global footprint and can help strengthen the pharmacy practice in China, said Associate Director of China Initiatives Ashley Qi, M.B.A.

“Through this new partnership, we hope to advance the pharmacy profession globally,” Qi said. “We want to use the resources of our number-one pharmacy school to be the first to build the Pharm.D. program in China, which doesn’t currently have a pharmacy professional degree.”

In addition to the CSC scholarship, which covers cost of living and room and board for the Chinese students, the three students also have their tuition and fees covered by the Beijing Royal Charity Foundation Student Scholarship.

Xiaorui Fu, one of the China Scholarship Council students, said she was attracted to the School because it is known for its innovative approach.

“America is a country that is known for its innovation ability, and UNC-Chapel Hill has the best and most well-known pharmacy school in the nation,” she said. “The Pharm.D. program at UNC will help lay solid academic foundations for realizing my career ambitions.”

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