Making a difference one patient at a time is the focus of a collaborative effort initiated by the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (COPPS).
The program, now in its eighth year, allows faculty and students from COPPS to provide pharmaceutical and community health services to patients that are uninsured or even homeless. In Tallahassee, COPPS works in conjunction with the Lincoln Neighborhood Medical Center on West Brevard St. and the Richardson-Lewis Center on Orange Ave. to provide essential pharmaceutical services that residents in the area may not have. Clinical services are also provided at additional satellite locations in Havana.
According to Otis Kirksey, Pharm. D., who helped spearhead the health services program, COPPS faculty saw the potential for the investment as a result of a strong belief that patients cannot be managed properly without pharmaceutical services. This factor, combined with the potential to provide a rich learning experience for pharmacy students, led to the creation of a much needed and exciting opportunity for FAMU’s students and the community.
Pharmaceutical services at the Lincoln and Richardson-Lewis Neighborhood Medical Centers are managed by FAMU graduates and current students. The centers are federally qualified to function as community health centers and receive funding to provide healthcare and medications to patients.
Zachary Knowles, a current COPPS student from Jefferson County, who is completing a rotation at the Neighborhood Community Center, believes the hands-on experience he has received is exactly what he needs to become an outstanding pharmacist.
‘It’s been a really nice experience. It seems to form a picture, a mental image so we can really learn how to treat the patients and manage their needs,” Knowles said.
Brittany Lyles, Pharm. D., who has served as a pharmacist at the center for three years, believes the services provided comprise a good partnership between the University and the city.
“Generally patients don’t get the care that they need or require because it’s costly. When patients are getting adequate care and getting access to medicines they can’t [otherwise] afford, it leads to better healthcare,” Lyles said.
Speaking of the students at the center, Kirksey said, “When they come in, the second day they are already doing triage. They bring the patients in, they do their vitals, take their blood pressure, and go through their medication list to identify any specific problems the patients may want to have addressed.
Access to primary care for people who are uninsured is a major challenge, Kirksey acknowledged, adding that the Neighborhood Medical Center and Bond Community Health Care Center are vital and firmly represent the commitment FAMU has maintained toward serving the community.
“We provide compassionate empathetic care. We treat them just like family members. Patients have to have that sense of comfort to know that FAMU cares. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Kirksey said.
Pinpointing diabetes management as his primary focus at the center, Kirksey stated that nearly 10 patients are seen at the center each day for a variety of reasons.
He further emphasized the problem by highlighting and equating the number of below-the-knee amputations and emergency room admittances for high blood pressure that disproportionately affect African Americans in the U.S.
Antonio Jose Carrion, Pharm. D., whose primary focus is advanced pharmacy in HIV and Ambulatory Care, sees patients at the Bond Community Center. As an interventionist, Carrion, a 2009 FAMU COPPS graduate, has direct contact with patients, which allows him to maximize each visit and determine whether patients have outside obstacles to overcome in addition to possible health challenges.
“[There may be] barriers such as not having enough money to keep their lights on, or they may be homeless, or may need a job. We have to find ways to treat those patients and help them with their care. It’s not always about the medication,” Carrion said.
According to Carrion, the opportunity for COPPS students to train at the Bond Center is an exceptional experience for those who are interested in learning about HIV and the ins and outs of treatment.
“Through the collaboration at Bond Community Health, we are able to help follow the patients, make sure they are receiving their medications, taking their medications, and that they’re effectively working,” Carrion said.
With the traditional role of a pharmacist rapidly changing, the ability to perform disease management is more critical than ever in the profession.
“We can actually work with the physicians to help manage the patients and prevent long-term complications,” Kirksey concludes.