Student pharmacists making a difference in our community

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, January 9, 2024

For many people, keeping track of numerous prescription medications can be confusing and, at times, even overwhelming.
Student pharmacists at East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy recently offered their expertise to older adults at Johnson City’s Memorial Park Community Center to help them improve their health through better management of medications.
Dubbed a “Brown Bag Event,” area residents were invited to bring their medications and supplements in a bag and meet with student pharmacists, who would then check for any potential drug interactions in an online database.
Student pharmacist Vanna Labi (’25), who planned the event, said that if the patients obtain their prescriptions from multiple pharmacies, then it’s unlikely that their pharmacists will be able to track those interactions.
Labi said she and the students also reviewed prescription instructions to help the patients understand how to take the medicines, as well as performed a medication reconciliation for patients, creating a comprehensive list of their medications.
“If they end up in the emergency room, it’s really helpful for them to have their own list of medications up to date,” said Labi. “Most of the people that we saw yesterday didn’t have a list, so it was really helpful for us to just get all of their meds down on one sheet so that it is possible to present that to their providers whenever they have appointments.”
ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy has 14 student organizations and over 100 opportunities for student leadership. Last academic year, students completed over 1,100 hours of community service, which helped lead to the college earning the nation’s top pharmacy school award for service, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Lawrence C. Weaver Transformative Community Service Award.
Labi said one of the most beneficial aspects of the event was simply getting to know the patients.
“Generally, these older adults have faced a lot of isolation coming out of COVID-19, especially if they live alone,” said Labi. “Some of them just wanted somebody to talk to. We had interviews that lasted over an hour.”
Labi said they partnered with Insight Alliance, an organization that works to prevent and reduce the impact of substance abuse on the community, which provided 20 medication lock boxes to give away to the patients, as well as information on sharps disposal.
The inaugural event was so successful they hope to do it again this year, Labi said.
Dr. Jeff Gray, pharmacy practice faculty at ETSU Gatton College of Pharmacy, helped train the students for the Brown Bag Event by sharing best practices and motivations.
“Pharmacists are an essential part of the health care team,” said Gray. “Thankfully, services which focus on the optimal use of medications can occur in a traditional setting or during community enrichment events such as this Brown Bag Event.”

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