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February 5, 2010

ULM’s College of Pharmacy: Making a difference to Louisiana patients

The University of Louisiana at Monroe’s College of Pharmacy is often recognized for its progressive education and numerous research opportunities, but perhaps less well known is the ways it helps improve the lives of many Louisianans through routine screening services.

Although many make New Year’s resolutions to improve their health, some Louisianans may not have easy or inexpensive access to the very health screenings that may make a difference in leading a healthier lifestyle.

However, fourth-year pharmacy students at ULM involved in advanced pharmacy practice experiences serve Louisianans through public screenings every year, and this academic year has been no different. This year, students are spending time with ULM faculty providing clinical pharmacist services with the Baton Rouge General Family Medicine Residency Program.

Drs. Ann Wicker and Brice Mohundro believe the fourth-year students are presented with an excellent opportunity to utilize their skills and knowledge in a setting that benefits the Baton Rouge community.

ULM faculty and students in conjunction with the Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s Wellness Committee and Retail Pharmacy have already provided several wellness events for the medical center’s employees and patrons, with even more scheduled this semester.

In February, the students will perform body mass index screenings, a measure of a person’s body fat and a leading indicator of obesity. Obesity can lead to serious health risks including the increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and premature death. Louisiana’s population is consistently ranked among the most obese in the nation.

ULM alum, Adria Kerr, RPh, manages the BRG employee pharmacy and has played a key role in involving the students in these wellness events. Since September, over 450 people have been screened, with pharmacy students performing a majority of them.

In early December 2009, pharmacy students provided bone density screenings for over 160 patients, several whom were counseled on the need for calcium supplements and instructed to follow-up with their primary physician, if necessary.
“Those patients with no primary care physician were given information on how to contact physicians in order to obtain one,” said Dr. Brice Mohundro of ULM’s College of Pharmacy.

Participants at the Bluebonnet campus were given coupons for 5 percent discounts on over-the-counter medications and a free pedometer at the Bluebonnet Corner Pharmacy in order to increase the traffic through that location.

Pharmacy students Kim Benoit of Lafayett, Sara Caldarera of Lake Charles, Jennifer Caldorera Ragusa of Tickfaw and Chase Snyder of Zachary, along with pharmacy residents Jessica Johnson of Eunice and Kieu Nguyen of Kenner screened participants for hypertension during the month of September 2009.

Screeners discovered that the majority of the 112 patients screened were either hypertensive or pre-hypertensive. The patients were instructed to follow up with their physicians if the findings were outside the normal range, according to Mohundro.

“This leads me to believe that we should continue health screenings and increase education and awareness of the complications that can result from untreated hypertension,” said Kerr.

October’s 2009 Wellness Event featured blood glucose screenings, to check for diabetic conditions.

“Diabetes is a disease that can be easily monitored and treated, but if left untreated can lead to severe complications including heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, kidney disorders, and numerous other complications,” said Kerr. “Early detection and treatment are essential to preventing these complications.”

The screenings were performed under the supervision of ULM faculty members, including Mohundro and Dr. Ann Wicker. In addition to help from ULM, the Baton Rouge General Medical Center provided employees and volunteers.

“Several patients were referred to their physicians for follow-up and four patients in the ‘high’ category were diagnosed with diabetes after follow-up with their physicians,” said Mohundro. “These patients are now receiving medication for type 2 diabetes.”

And since the last screening for blood glucose two more employees have been diagnosed with diabetes after follow-up with their primary doctors, and are being treated with oral medication.

Students also presented information to a Parkinson’s support group and participated in a brown bag with patients and care providers. In addition, the students participated in an award-winning, tobacco-free education program targeting fourth and fifth-grade students in Baton Rouge.

“I know these students are not only receiving a valuable, hands-on education, they are rendering services vital to the patient population of this state,” said ULM’s Interim Dean of the College of Pharmacy Greg Leader, about the initiative.

Other students and residents participating in the screenings so far this year include Micah Bounds of Purvis, Miss., Trey Turner of Eunice and Franky Van of Lake Charles.

The students report positively about their participation in the wellness events.

“Participating in the blood pressure, blood glucose, and bone mineral density screenings was a really great opportunity to help the community while having fun learning at the same time,” said Caldorera Ragusa.

"Having the opportunity to serve other BRG employees was a joy in itself,” agreed Turner. “When you are able to provide a service that is unexpected and very convenient, people really show their appreciation. It also makes a student feel good when a recommendation is made to a patient and they truly listen to what is said.”

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