The Maryland Daily Record has named Nicole Brandt, PharmD, its 2010 "Health Care Hero" in the category of outstanding health care professional. Since joining the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in 1999, the geriatric pharmacist has made it her mission to improve medication safety for the elderly.
Three other University of Maryland nominees also were recognized this year: Brian Berman, MD, from the School of Medicine; Louise Mitchell, PT, from the School of Nursing; and The West Side Story Project, a joint program between the Baltimore City Cancer Program and the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Each year since 2003, a panel of independent judges for the Baltimore-based newspaper select's individuals who best "touch lives," in eight categories of health care: advancements, community outreach, volunteer, physician, nurse, health care professional, first responder, and animal care provider.
"I went to pharmacy school to help people and, the older population stood out to me because they are not always their own best advocates," says Brandt, who also is a 1997 graduate of the School.
Brandt works closely with older adults to improve their understanding of their medication regimens, ultimately improving their health. As an associate professor, she is teaching the next generation of pharmacists at the School the importance of helping older adults properly manage their medications and she is sharing that knowledge with other health care professionals.
She also provides clinical services at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Baltimore County, where she manages the medication needs of residents in a variety of settings--independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care. Here, she watches for medication-related concerns such as harmful medication interactions and medication errors that can result when a person has more than one health care provider. She monitors each resident's ability to administer his or her own medication, oversees adherence to federal regulations on the proper storage and labeling of medications, and works with the staff to make sure that each resident's medicine is being used in such a way as to improve their outcomes.
"Dr. Brandt works with an extremely vulnerable population and is able to transform their lives with empathy and respect," says Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, PharmD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the School of Pharmacy. "She has made critical contributions to improving the lives of elderly patients particularly those with Alzheimer's."
Brandt's continual advocacy, as well as her clinical experiences at Pickersgill, were instrumental in the state legislature passing legislation in December 2008, which mandates every assisted living facility in Maryland to have a pharmacist review medication use for each resident taking nine or more medications (prescription, over-the-counters, and herbals) every six months.
"What we are doing is fostering education so that clinical outcomes in assisted living facilities will be better," says Brandt. She leads a very large work group to expand educational initiatives for facilities and pharmacists on medication management in assisted living. "They need to know what they can do according to the state regulations that went into effect July 1, 2009," she explains.
The awardees were honored at the "Health Care Heroes Awards Breakfast" on March 24, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Baltimore.