About Us

Mission & Vision


The mission of NACOE is to promote University of Montana as a recognized leader in the training and development of a multicultural health care workforce that serves to reduce health disparities in underserved and diverse communities through research, culturally proficient education, community interaction and engagements through Grizzly values.


UM NACOE will be recognized and respected as an innovative program that leads and integrates community, education, research and the development of future pharmacy professionals who are culturally aware and work toward the elimination of health disparities.



  • To recruit underrepresented or disadvantaged students and faculty in the health professions who will promote health and health equality to a diverse population
  • To provide and promote retention activities for culturally competent underrepresented students and faculty
  • To promote, expand and cultivate cultural awareness to campus and community
  • To address health disparities through teaching, research and community advocacy.
  • To seek funding opportunities for innovative, integrative and coordinated approaches for the continued and expanded training of diverse health care professionals

History of Diversity Programs as of 2018

In 1988, Dr. Dave Forbes took the deanship of the School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences.  Dean Forbes asked Dr. Rustem Medora to begin our diversity efforts by writing a grant funded by the department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) hence forth referred to as the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) grant. After several tries, Professor Medora was successful in 1993 in obtaining a three-year HCOP grant. Two more HCOP grants were awarded from 1997 to 2004. These three grants totaled $1.8 million. These three grants laid the groundwork for bringing a more diverse student population to UM’s programs. HCOP, initially a pure diversity program, eventually moved to an underrepresented minority, disadvantaged student program. Due to the success of HCOP, the pharmacy school then had enough Native American students enrolled in Pharmacy to be eligible to apply for a HRSA funded Center of Excellence grant.  Professors Medora and Dr. Lori Morin received a three-year $916,000 grant for the Native American Center of Excellence (NACOE) from 2001-04. 

With the NACOE grant, the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences was eligible to apply for an extra million dollars on their National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) building grant which was funded for a total of $3 million.

Subsequently, the School of Pharmacy was invited to apply for an Endowment grant through the National Institute of Minority Health & Health Disparities (NIMHD) arm of the National Institutes of Health, once again because of the NACOE grant. That grant was funded for $1.89 million. Then an additional amount of $967,500 was awarded. 

From 9/2004 to 2007 the School received $892,000 million in funding from HRSA for our Native American Center of Excellence.  And from 2005 to 2007 the School received $952,250 in funding from HRSA for the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP).

Once again, because of NACOE we were awarded a second endowment grant from NIMHD in the amount of $4.7 million. An additional $3.7 million was received from HRSA for the pharmacy school’s NACOE from 7/2009 to 2017. Now the Endowment equals about 10 million dollars. Lastly, in 2018 $2.9 million was awarded to the School to reestablish its Health Careers Opportunity Program. 

Over those many years, COE and HCOP grants have provided millions of dollars in support to the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and its programs. The Skaggs School of Pharmacy resides administratively within the College of Health. Each grant had specific objectives that have always been met, fully or in part. We are proud of the number of Native American students who have become practicing pharmacists, numbering about 60 to 70 students. We hold one of the top places for Native American enrollment in schools of pharmacy. The majority of Native pharmacists in Montana are graduates of our school. We are proud of all the individuals who have run our Diversity grants for several years including the Skaggs Scholar Program, SOKS, and Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students. Also, Loans for Disadvantaged Students and Issksiniip, a sub-award scholarship and support program from Blackfeet Community College’s HPOG grant. 

Currently, NACOE is awarded $2 million to support Native American Pharmacy students from 2023 to 2027.