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School of Pharmacy Participates in First-Ever Health Fair on the Hill

More than 75 pharmacists, pharmacy residents, and student pharmacists from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, Shenandoah University, and Virginia Commonwealth University descended on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, for a health fair aimed at informing legislators and their staff about the many services that pharmacists can provide to help individuals maintain healthy lifestyles and prevent and manage chronic illnesses.

"Pharmacists complete a rigorous, four-year doctorate program that equips them with knowledge about the pathophysiology, pharmacology, and therapeutics of a wide range of disease states," says Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, CGP, BCACP, FAPhA, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) at the School of Pharmacy. "However, while we are trained to provide a variety of health care screenings and patient counseling services, our skills are often underutilized. By staging a health fair on Capitol Hill, pharmacists and pharmacy students were able to show legislators and their staffers that our services extend far beyond medication dispensing."

The health fair was organized by the American Pharmacists Association, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the Congressional Community Pharmacy Caucus. Student pharmacists, assisted by faculty, preceptors and other pharmacists, provided participating legislators, congressional aides, and other government staff members with screenings for bone density, body composition, glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure, and performed medication consultations.

"The health fair provided an excellent opportunity for us to advocate for our profession, while educating patients at the same time," says Deanna Tran, PharmD, assistant professor in PPS. "It was also a great opportunity for our students to practice the skills that they have learned in the classroom."

Faculty and students from the School of Pharmacy conducted screenings for bone density, which showed whether participants had or were at risk for developing osteoporosis. Former Representative Robert "Robin" Tallon, Jr., from South Carolina and Representative Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania visited the screening station, where they received a heel ultrasound to check their bone density.

Following the completion of the screening, all participants met with student pharmacists from the School to learn more about the score they received. Student pharmacists counseled participants about how to adjust their diet and supplementation to obtain optimum levels of calcium and Vitamin D, get adequate exercise, and prevent falls.

Alexandra McPherson, a third-year student pharmacist and member of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) at the School of Pharmacy, enjoyed her time counseling patients about the results of their bone density screenings. "It was especially great to speak with young people who visited the health fair and provide them with advice about different preventative measures that they can take now to ensure a healthier future," she says.

McPherson adds, "Many of the participants were very receptive to the ideas that I shared with them, especially those who had a family history of osteoporosis. It was also interesting to counsel patients with modified vegetarian or vegan diets, as they often expressed concerns about the best way for them to maintain an adequate intake of different nutrients, including calcium. I was pleasantly surprised to see how engaged, proactive, and health conscious the attendees were."

Stephanie Yager, another third-year student pharmacist and member of APhA-ASP at the School, participated alongside McPherson during the event. Some of her patients saw first-hand the importance of the bone density screenings she provided.

"Several patients who were screened had osteopenia, or a bone mineral density that was lower than normal," says Yager. "As a result of this screening, they now know that they should talk to their doctor about their condition and begin taking measures to help prevent them from developing osteoporosis in the future."

In addition to helping legislators and other government workers become more knowledgeable and proactive about their health, the event was part of an ongoing initiative led by professional pharmacy organizations and schools of pharmacy to raise awareness and provide valuable insight about health care policy and other important issues related to the profession, including provider status.

"The truth is that many people simply are not aware of the numerous roles that pharmacists have," says McPherson. "And, events such as the health fair on Capitol Hill are essential to promoting the role of the pharmacist as an integral member of the health care team. From offering a wide range of health screenings and immunizations to counseling patients on medication adherence and adjusting medication regimens to meet therapeutic objectives, pharmacists can play a critical role in disease prevention and maintenance. We need to continue participating in events such as this to demonstrate to policymakers the impact that pharmacists can have not only on the immediate health and well-being of our patients, but also on health care outcomes at a national level."


Posting Date: 11/27/2013
Contact Name: Malissa Carroll
Contact Phone: 410-706-4235
Contact Email: mcarroll@rx.umaryland.edu