Pharmacist is Fighting to End Pharmacy Deserts 

Updated on June 18, 2024

Many Americans enjoy the services and convenience of the local pharmacies that fill their prescriptions and meet their medical needs, but the future abundance of pharmacies is unclear. In fact, “pharmacy deserts,” which are large areas with no pharmacy for communities to access, are becoming an increasing threat to public health.  

In an answer to this threat, Dr. Emmanuel Ayanjoke chose to pursue pharmacy ownership after completing his pharmacy fellowship in Cedarville University’s School of Pharmacy. As a fellow, Ayanjoke focused on pain management and palliative care. areas. 

Altev Community Pharmacy opened its doors to residents in Avondale, a community in Cincinnati, in late April.  As owner and manager, Ayanjoke is focused on bringing affordable and quality healthcare to a heavily populated region of Cincinnati that has no pharmacy access despite housing both Bethesda North Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  

This initiative and its success are strongly tied with the impact of its owner and his journey to opening Altev Community Pharmacy. 

For Ayanjoke, pharmacy runs in the family. A third-generation pharmacist, Ayanjoke left his home in Nigeria to pursue an education in pharmacy like his father and grandfather before him. Ayanjoke’s dream was to one day open and manage his own pharmacy, so training in both the fields of pharmacy and business was necessary, leading Ayanjoke to graduate from the University of Toledo with both a Doctor of Pharmacy and a Master of Business Administration degree.  

It was during his doctoral studies that Ayanjoke first started to notice the danger of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the risk they posed to the field of pharmacy. PBMs are contracted by insurance companies as intermediaries between pharmacies and patients. They charge the insurance companies for their service and pay the pharmacies much less while pocketing the difference. The result is that insurance companies are satisfied, PBMs make a profit and local pharmacies are short-changed, leading to a financial deficit that eventually closes their doors.      

Hoping to make a difference after receiving his doctorate, Ayanjoke began seeking a residency program but was met with rejection. 

“On match day, which is where you find out what residency program you got accepted into, I was totally crushed,” said Ayanjoke. “I had applied to at least 12 places, and all of them responded with a ‘No.’ I wasn’t a bad student — I had an MBA and I did okay in school — but it was just rejection after rejection, and I couldn’t understand why. But like one of my preceptors always told me, ‘Just pick the next best opportunity, pray about it and see what God will make happen.’” 

These rejections ended up leading Ayanjoke to pursue the fellowship program at Cedarville University’s School of Pharmacy. This fellowship would allow him to function as a part-time associate professor while simultaneously learning a condensed and highly structured pharmacy pain management program and gaining valuable field experience.  

What started as an alternative to Ayanjoke’s dream of opening his own pharmacy ended up equipping him for it.  

As his fellowship neared its end, Ayanjoke learned of an opportunity from the pharmaceutical company McKesson. The company was launching an initiative called Project Oasis as a collaborative effort to improve healthcare equality for underserved communities. Project Oasis is designed to combat the rise of pharmacy deserts across America by providing funding for pharmacists to start their own facilities in areas without access to pharmaceutical care. When Ayanjoke learned of a McKesson-funded pharmacy opening soon in the Cincinnati area, he seized the opportunity. 

Ayanjoke was encouraged by his peers and mentors at Cedarville University to follow his dream. With their blessing and encouragement, Ayanjoke was selected as the owner/operator for Altev Community Pharmacy. 

“I’m incredibly grateful for the family I have in Cedarville,” said Ayanjoke. “I am surrounded by so many other pharmacists who have so much experience and knowledge. I know that in my new position at Altev, I can email any one of them for help or insight and they will be there. To have that kind of support is exceedingly rare.” 

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is a Baptist university with undergraduate programs in arts, sciences, and professional programs, and graduate programs including the Doctor of Pharmacy. With an enrollment of 5,456 students in 175 areas of study, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio and is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, and high graduation and retention rates. For more information about the University, visit

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