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Student Pharmacists Shine at the Jackson Free Clinic

May 25, 2018

Medical students Stephen Grado and Jessica Jenkins, along with student pharmacist Khyati Ganatra, review notes from a patient interview.

IMAGINE, IF YOU WILL, a place where medical students and pharmacy students give up their Saturdays to work collegially, teach and learn from each other, and provide uninsured patients with vital medical care. That place is the Jackson Free Clinic (JFC) in Jackson, Miss.

Collaborative Practice

The clinic is a nonprofit organization run by students at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Its mission is to provide high-quality health services — including exams, treatment, testing, prescription medications, education, and preventive care — to uninsured community members. The JFC also provides an innovative environment where pharmacy students can demonstrate the value pharmacists bring to an interdisciplinary care team.

“We are able to show medical students the depth of our drug and disease state knowledge, while they are able to teach us about the diagnostic process and considerations that take place when evaluating a new patient,” said Kaitlyn Jones, a fourth-year student pharmacist at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. “We both develop respect for each other’s professions and work together to enhance our patient’s care.” Jones also serves as the Pharmacy Student Director for the clinic and as a board member of the JFC.

Katie McClendon, Pharm.D., Assistant Dean for Student Services at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, became involved with the clinic as a pharmacist volunteer in 2013. At that time, few student pharmacists participated in the clinic. Today, several student pharmacists are members of the JFC’s Board of Directors, and the clinic has expanded to include eight care teams, each with about seven students from various medical disciplines, including pharmacy.

A Typical Day

Meredith Oliver, a fourth-year student pharmacist at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, began volunteering at the JFC last year. According to Oliver, when patients arrive, they are checked in at the front desk and a team receives each chart to review before meeting the patient. Once the patient’s height and weight are charted, he or she is taken for an interview.

“As a pharmacy student, I always ask what medications the patient is taking, including any herbal or OTC supplements,” said Oliver. “Once we talk with the patient, we go back to the team room and discuss our plan for the patient.”

After the treatment plan is formulated, the team presents the plan and any recommended medications to the supervising physician and pharmacist onsite that day for approval. Next, the team talks to the patient about their treatment plan and medications. Each team sees between two and five patients a day.

Oliver finds it rewarding to share her medication expertise with the rest of the team. “The younger medical students have not had pharmacology, and they greatly appreciate the frequent teaching moments pharmacy students provide about how to write a prescription, drug classes within a disease state, and pharmacology review of medications selected for the patient,” she said.

Real-Life Impact

Jones recalled a recent experience where she helped a patient with medication reconciliation. “Our patient was only able to tell us the number and color of pills they took every day,” she said.

Student pharmacist Lauren Pohl talks to a patient about the plan for his medications and provides him with medication samples.

The medical students were unsure how to proceed, and Jones explained that they could call the patient’s pharmacy to get the medication history. The medical students were unaware that this was an option, and hesitant to call, so I handled it, she said. “Even though it was a simple action that took no longer than 10 minutes, offering to call the patient’s pharmacy turned out to be a critical action, allowing our team to adjust their current medications and provide better care to the patient,” Jones said.

Jones also described how she helped a medical student identify alternative antibiotics for a patient when the first choice for antibiotics was unavailable. “Working together, we were able to find an alternative regimen that was feasible for both our patient and our attending physician,” she said.


Medication Assistance Education

In addition to caring for patients, student pharmacists have taken the lead in identifying medication assistance programs and assisting patients with the often complex forms. “It’s been a great learning experience for our students to fill out the paperwork,” said Dr. McClendon.

For example, Jones worked with her team to help an asthmatic patient who couldn’t afford her two inhalers. Jones recommended starting a patient assistance application through a specific drug company, which would provide both inhalers.

Jones explained the process to the patient, helped her submit the application, and set up a follow-up appointment to make sure the medication was controlling the patient’s asthma. “The collaboration between pharmacy and medical students created an opportunity for me to educate the medical students about patient assistance and to provide the patient with no-cost medications that were critical for her asthma control,” said Jones.

The Future of Collaboration

According to Lauren Ramsey, also a fourth-year pharmacy student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, “The interprofessional team education at JFC has vastly improved the relationship between students of different healthcare professions. Pharmacy and medical students share their knowledge and better understand each other’s roles in interprofessional, team-based care. Every student adds value to the patient’s care and gains experience working alongside peers in multiple healthcare professions.”

Internal Medicine resident Madison Williams, M.D., writes her portion of a note as Pohl and medical students Tiffany Martin and Naishal Patel evaluate OTC medication options.

Ramsey, a native of Mississippi, grew up understanding the issues affecting her state, particularly disparities in healthcare and reduced access to preventative services. “At JFC, pharmacy students play a vital, active role in ensuring that patients have access to care and appropriate medication therapy. These patients would likely fall through the cracks of our healthcare system,” she said. “It’s highly rewarding to participate in their care.”

Will working together as students make a difference to doctors and pharmacists of the future? The student volunteers think so. Ramsey believes the effects of this collaboration will stretch far beyond the actual experience. “We are very fortunate at the University of Mississippi and at JFC to have pharmacy and medical students who genuinely respect each other.”

“It is our hope that pharmacy students show their value and knowledge while on the team,” she said. “I think the importance of collaboration with pharmacy will remain with medical students long after they become physicians.”

-By Ann Latner


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