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Pharmacy School Creates New Health Initiative to Help Uninsured Families

A new community health initiative developed by Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy is the first initiative nationwide to provide ongoing counsel and support to uninsured families dealing with chronic health problems. Duquesne Medication Management Services, a unique pharmacist-directed wellness and disease-management program, is aimed at improving patient outcomes, especially for patients taking multiple medications.

“Medication Management Services include ongoing monitoring of prescribed therapy, early identification and resolution of drug-related problems and ongoing patient education and counseling,” explained Dr. John Tomko, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Duquesne. “Pharmacists are considered consultants and caregivers on the continuum of care. They collaborate closely with primary care physicians and other providers to improve their patient health.”

The Mylan School initiated the program to enhance the preparation of pharmacy students for this practice. Dr. Tom Mattei, associate dean of professional programs, helped to set up the first of many relationships with local agencies that serve the underserved by partnering with Catholic Charities.

“We matched teams of professional-year students with eligible families who were referred by the clinic’s physician,” Mattei said. “The students, under the guidance of Tomko, meet monthly with their assigned patients to provide medical monitoring, counseling and outcomes management.”

Duquesne is the only pharmacy school across the country that is providing medication therapy management services directly to the working poor, according to Tomko. “While other universities may offer a similar program in a limited setting, to their own employees in their own learning environment, for example, we are giving our students the opportunity to apply their knowledge to a real patient population in a real practice setting that immediately improves the quality of life of the family,” he said.

At the clinic, students conduct histories and physicals, perform appropriate screening tests, review the patient’s social and medication history and assess how the prescribed treatment was working.

“We wanted to make sure patients understand why they are taking their medications, how to take them, how to manage adverse reactions, and how the prescribed treatment will improve their health,” Tomko said. “In addition, the students recommended lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, that can make their medications work better.”

In addition to meeting an important community need, the Medication Management Services Program provides a new learning environment for students.

“By using a family concept, we’ve introduced dynamics that would not occur with just one individual,” Tomko said. “Our students must deal with communication issues, cultural diversity issues, or transportation issues that this population brings to the program. The students are also working as part of an interdisciplinary team, with the referring physician, nurse, and nurse practitioner, as well as with their own group, so they are learning managerial tasks as well. They also learn to prioritize their own time and their recommendations to their patients.”

In the process, students learn about Medicare billing, although all medication management services are provided at no cost through the program. The inaugural program, which matched 21 student teams with 21 families, was considered a success by students and families alike, and has been expanded this year.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.