Students sort slightly expired prescription medications.

Pharmacy students help individuals who are low-income or in poverty to access essential health care services.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the spring 2023 edition of Hearts Together. The magazine is a biannual publication of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor.

Classroom learning is essential, but some lessons are more profound when experienced firsthand. It’s a main reason why Associate Professor of Pharmacy James Lokken, PharmD, commits several of his “off days” each academic year to student-learning opportunities at City on a Hill. Founded in 2001, City on a Hill is a faith-based nonprofit located in Milwaukee. Its mission is to break the cycle of generational poverty in Milwaukee through training, education, and resource allocation.

About once a month, Lokken oversees onsite Saturday workdays for CUW students. The workdays allow CUW pharmacy students to fulfill course requirements or simply volunteer. The students have helped with a variety of programs over the years: an “ask a pharmacist” station, vaccine clinics, smoking cessation workshops, health screenings, and more.

The experience often stretches students to apply knowledge in new ways, said Lokken. For example, City on a Hill maintains a “med room” full of slightly expired or discarded medications. The medications are still safe for use—and for an uninsured, low-income population they fit the price tag—but prescribing them requires an extra-diligent eye from a licensed pharmacist. That’s where Lokken can help. CUW students play a role in meticulously inventorying the supply so that pharmacists like Lokken can assess their efficacy.

“That’s one of the beautiful aspects of our work at City on a Hill: It teaches students how to function in a resource-poor environment,” Lokken said.

City on a Hill also helps instill a core virtue of Concordia’s School of Pharmacy: servant leadership.

“It puts a whole new perspective on how we can use our God-given time, talents, and treasures to help those who need it most,” Lokken said. “There are so many opportunities to help if we just take the initiative to do so.”

Want in?

The School of Pharmacy at CUW is committed to the development of pharmacists who are servant leaders, dedicated to providing value-based, patient-centered care that improves the health of our communities in rural and urban areas through excellence in teaching, research, service, and practice.

The spring 2023 Hearts Together magazine hit mailboxes in April. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email