Pharmacy Students Win National Competition

June 5, 2015    |  

A team of students from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy have received a National Challenge Award for their participation in the fourth annual Script Your Future (SYF) Medication Adherence Team Challenge, a competition designed to engage health profession students and faculty across the nation by encouraging teams to develop creative ideas, events, and initiatives to raise public awareness about the importance of medication adherence. The 2015 award follows the school’s win in 2012, the first year of the competition.

The 2015 Medication Adherence Team Challenge is part of the national SYF public awareness campaign coordinated by the National Consumers League (NCL). The campaign includes more than 135 public and private stakeholder organizations, including Challenge sponsors — the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation, the American Medical Association, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the American Pharmacists Association, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“We were thrilled to see students work collaboratively - from pharmacy, nursing, medicine, social work, and many other health professions - to creatively help patients in their communities improve adherence,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “This comprehensive approach will ultimately result in patients hearing from multiple voices encouraging them to take their medication as directed. Poor adherence is a real public health crisis in the United States, but with an emerging generation of health professionals armed to better deal with it, we are optimistic about our future.”

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy team, under the leadership of student Sharina Nandwani, partnered with the University Student Government Association (USGA), the School of Nursing, and the School of Social Work to form a “Script Your Future Committee” to plan and organize community events. The team held several events, including a health fair, an “NBC Health and Fitness Expo” in Washington, D.C., a “Million Hearts” symposium, an “Interprofessional Education Day,” and several others. Recognizing that patients are often met with an overwhelming amount of information after a hospital visit, the team focused on creating new relationships with local hospitals and was able to distribute hundreds of wallet cards to discharged patients. Through the efforts of the School of Pharmacy, more than 1,600 members of the Baltimore City community were informed about the importance of medication adherence.

In addition to handing out and promoting SYF materials, the student group also utilized other adherence tools, such as Rx Timer Caps. Giant Pharmacy generously made a donation of 500 timer caps to the School of Pharmacy, which allowed students to give them away at outreach events. “Patients stopped by during tabling events out of curiosity to see the caps, which fit on any standard size medication bottle and counts the time from the last time the bottle was opened,” Nandwani said. “For a patient who is supposed to take his or her medications every eight hours, the timer cap will let the patient know when it has been eight hours since the bottle was last opened.”

Research shows that nearly three out of four Americans do not take their medications as directed. This may lead to devastating results, particularly for people with chronic conditions. National health advocacy leaders have recognized poor medication adherence as a public health priority, the outcome of which leads to more than one-third of medicine-related hospitalizations and almost 125,000 U.S. deaths each year. Improved medication adherence leads to better health outcomes and reduced total health care costs.

Top-performing teams in the competition were honored with a National Award for overall outstanding team achievement, or a Focused Award that recognizes outstanding team achievement in the specific areas of media/communications outreach, health disparity/under-represented community outreach, or creative interprofessional event. In addition to the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, a Script Your Future National Award went to the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. The Focused awardees were: the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy (Health Disparities), NEOMED College of Pharmacy (Media), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy (Creative Interprofessional Event).

For this year’s Challenge, hundreds of future health care professionals held more than 400 events in 21 states, counseled more than 17,000 patients, and reached more than 5 million consumers nationwide.

“Our school’s success in the Script Your Future competition would not have been possible without our 2014-2015 USGA senator, Sharina Nandwani,” said Christopher St. Clair, a fourth-year student pharmacist and the outgoing president of the school’s Student Government Association (SGA). “Serving as inaugural chair of the SGA's Script Your Future Committee, Sharina mapped out a unique plan to target patients in both community and institutional settings. Her vision set us apart from every competitor and allowed us to reach patients that had been largely overlooked in previous campaigns. Furthermore, she worked to establish a sustainable adherence plan through incorporation of the APhA Foundation's Align My Refills program to provide patients with information about medication synchronization programs at local pharmacies in the Baltimore area.”