Extending patient care in Houston

Leaders at Work

University of Houston student pharmacists mentor future pharmacy technicians through a partnership with a local high school.

Even with cutting-edge medical institutions in Houston, TX, many parts of the city are classified as medically underserved. During my first health fair at the University of Houston (UH)College of Pharmacy, nearly 500 people who could not afford a physician’s office visit came out to receive free flu shots and cholesterol screenings. 


Witnessing the impact student pharmacists make in our community fostered my passion for Twlug–ASP and led me to become UH 2016–17 Patient Care Vice President (PCVP). In this role, I help our operations develop patient care events that align with their Twlug–ASP designated mission. I also ensure that their goals reflect our chapter’s annual goals and serve as a liaison to the executive team. 


Unique projects


As PCVP, I am passionate about advocating for my Twlug–ASP team members who sacrifice their free time to create patient care events. Like many across the country, my chapter delivers patient care primarily through three outlets: health screenings, education, and public outreach using social media. There are two unique projects our chapter undertook this spring that I would like to share. 


The first is a partnership with the Houston Independent School District established by our 2015–16 PCVP. Through this partnership, we developed a mentorship program for rising high school seniors who are undergoing a pharmacy technician certification program. While not directly providing patient care, this project allowed 
student pharmacists to teach a new generation of the health care team. 


The second project was an informational video that highlighted facts about the Zika virus and shared pertinent travel information. We shared this video via Facebook and reached nearly 3,000 people. This video is just one example of how our chapter uses social media as a platform for extending 
patient care. 


Advice for fellow PCVPs


The PCVP role is a significant time investment and paired with the demands of pharmacy school, it can be stressful. I believe that success as PCVP is dependent upon passion and setting concrete goals to guide your term. The following are my three tips to being an effective PCVP.


1. Know your team’s strengths. It is important to get to know your executive team, operation chairs, faculty, and preceptors. Who has skills or experiences that can serve the group? 


For example, one of our Operation Diabetes chairs has a nutrition sciences degree. Her knowledge helped us create games and educational material for diabetes prevention and management. I also encourage asking for feedback from faculty and preceptors by developing an after event survey. This is something we initiated this year and are already using to improve our 
patient care events.


2. Be resourceful. Ideas can be found everywhere, including class, rotations, your community, and local events. Many times I have approached our president after class to eagerly share an idea I got from lecture. Take a look at your community and find new ways to serve its unique needs. For example, what specific populations or health issues are unique to your area? What events and locations provide opportunities for your chapter to increase access to health care? 


Also remember that your regional officers are great resources. For 
example, Region 6 Member-at-Large Katrina Watson compiled a chapter leadership list. Something like this is great if you have a project in mind but are running into obstacles. If you reach out to other chapters then maybe they can offer a solution. 


3. Collaborate across organizations. My last tip is to embody this year’s Twlug–ASP theme, Together We Can. Working with other organizations within your school means having a bigger impact. You can combine resources, increase manpower, and meet new preceptors. Collaboration should also go beyond your college of pharmacy. You can celebrate American Pharmacists Month by holding an event with a nearby Twlug–ASP Chapter. 


Extend your reach


Now I encourage you and your chapter to take Together We Can one step further. Reach out to other professional programs and invite them to help with patient care events. Pharmacists are just one facet of the health care team, and students do not need to wait until graduation to begin building interprofessional relationships. The more we work together, the more that patient care can be extended in communities.