In 2004, our region faced a pharmacist shortage but the state of Tennessee didn't have the funds to create a pharmacy school in East Tennessee. Our community stepped up to fill the need with support from big donors like Bill Gatton to small donations at grocery store checkouts. Our story is the foundation of our tight-knit family oriented culture and our mission driven focus on serving the underserved in our region.
What impressed me the most about the whole initiative was the community response. We would not have a College of Pharmacy if not for the community.
Well, it was exciting. You saw an array of men and women citizens in and around this region, who said you know what, we're going to have that College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University.
The reason I did is because first of all, the closest College of Pharmacy in the state of Tennessee, was in Memphis. And it's 50 miles closer to Canada than it is to Memphis from Johnson City or Bristol. And that was one of the reasons the fact that we didn't have any access that close because the pharmacies back at that time. And the second reason was, the demographics of the population was growing older, and there's gonna be a need for more and more pharmacies.
I think one of the things that I was told when I walked in by Dr. Franks that first day, besides go find an office, was good luck, Larry, I hope you can do this. And it felt like a pretty big weight at the time was on my shoulders. But when I started talking to the people at East Tennessee State, and in particular in the College of Medicine and seeing the support from ETSU, and the ETSU leadership and the community, I mean, all I had to do was get the right people in the right place at the right time, and this is going to happen.
Now our graduates are out in the world making an impact as pharmacists. Over half our graduates live and work right here in Tennessee. Where Gatton makes an annual economic impact of over $36 million. While Gatton started to serve a local pharmacist shortage, we are now competing on the national stage. Our faculty are making a huge impact in research as well as our fight against prescription drug abuse. Our students continue to make headlines for winning national awards.
Our history continues to grow with East Tennessee State University's new Interprofessional Education and Research Center, which opened in 2018. Striking a balance at historical character with modern features and technology, Building 60 has been repurposed as ETSU's headquarters for Iinterprofessional Education. This building provides our students with additional classroom space, high fidelity simulation labs, and standardized patient experiences. It also stands as a physical symbol for ETSU health where all five ETSU health sciences colleges come together under one roof. In fact, Gatton's interprofessional curriculum is so important that our students are learning team based care side by side with medical students their very first semester. And there you have it, an incredible journey for an institution that began out of the need and support of our local community and has since grown to compete on the national stage. I can't wait to see where we go next.