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7 posts from July 2012


Shedding a New Light on Medication Safety

Left to right: Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy Dr. Laura Bio, Annette Lista PharmD'14, and Meghan Tolan PharmD'14.
By Annette Lista PharmD’14

The Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group (PPAG) student organization, recognized by the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, is one of the first student chapters that is a branch of the national pharmacy organization.

One of the organization’s objectives is to provide medication safety education to student pharmacists, patients and their caregivers, and pediatric practitioners. By working with the faculty advisor, Dr. Laura Bio, the organization was able to coordinate its first community outreach program with the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper University Hospital and the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University.

In honor of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month on May 31, Cooper’s Asthma Care Committee held its sixth annual Asthma Care Health Fair for 80 students from Lanning Square School in Camden, NJ.  The health fair consisted of 10 booths, ranging from asthma education to exercise activities.

Annette 3The PPAG student organization’s goal was to educate the students about medication safety through a fun interactive game at their booth. The game consisted of 10 scenarios in which the students responded what they would do if put in that situation. For example, one scenario consisted of sharing a classmate’s asthma inhaler, and the discussion was to never take someone else’s medication as it can be harmful. With take home prizes and worksheets, our organization encouraged students to discuss these scenarios with their parents, guardians, and teachers at school. By teaching the students the basics of medication safety at a young age, the foundation was built to prepare them for situations in the future.

FairAt the end of the day, all of the students gathered for lunch and were asked about one thing that they learned.  It was a proud moment for the PPAG student organization when one student raised her hand and said, “I learned not to share my friend’s medication.” With this being the first of many future outreach events that the PPAG student group will be participating in, the organization can truly see the impact it’s already made.


Drug Information Association Provides Great Opportunity for USciences Students

University of the Sciences students benefitted from the University’s relationship with the Drug Information Association (DIA) http://www.diahome.org/ this past year. With support from Mayes College, a DIA student chapter of the Horsham-based group that services professionals in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and related fields, was formed. It marks the first formerly recognized student group by the DIA. Mayes Associate Professor Dr. Danny Benau and PCP Assistant Professor Leonilla Blustein are co-advisors for the group.

In addition, University students were able to attend the DIA 2012 Annual Meeting from June 24-28 in Philadelphia that also included a Mayes College sponsored alumni reception. The following are two students’ reflection of attending the DIA conference:

DIA 2012 Annual Meeting: Collaborate to Innovate
By: Kyle Flannery

A year ago, I was unaware that The Drug Information Association existed. Last fall, I was surprised to learn not only that DIA was a professional organization, but that they were requesting to form a student chapter on our very own campus. Furthermore, I was presented with an active leadership role as a vice president within the organization. It took a tremendous amount of work to establish ourselves on campus, but I believe that the benefits have been truly worthwhile. Attendance at the DIA Annual Conference has been the most noteworthy benefit of student membership to date.

At first, I was apprehensive about attending the DIA Annual Meeting. Not only was there a large price tag, but attending would mean missing four days of work in the summer. I was also unsure that I would be able to take anything away from the meeting. ‘Who would really want to network with a student?’ I thought. I was scared that I would spend the whole conference going to meetings that were above my scope of understanding and that I would not make any meaningful connections.

A great aspect of DIA’s Annual Meeting was the way they organized the seminars and meetings. In the “Conference Guide” the seminars were clearly grouped into “tracks.” The tracks each represented a different topic within biomedical information. Furthermore, the individual meetings were given a rating of difficulty similar to a ski resort. Three categories (Circle, Square, and Diamond) separated the meetings according to how difficult they were to understand. This system of organization ensured that you attended meetings that were both interesting and also tailored to coincide with your individual knowledge level within that particular topic.

The DIA Annual Meeting allowed for networking experiences which were productive and enjoyable. Attendees were willing to have conversations with strangers and meet new people; this made the event fun. I came home with a huge stack of business cards. Connections can be very important when job searching, and I definitely may have met a future employer. In addition to professional connections, I also got to ask personal questions and hear about firsthand experiences of working in the pharmaceutical sector. You can learn a lot about a career in class but speaking to people actually involved in the profession provides a much more thorough understanding of that field.

I came away from the DIA Annual meeting feeling refreshed and invigorated. I attended useful seminars; I met many students and professionals with common interests; and I got to see things that my classmates will not be exposed to until they graduate. I’m looking forward to attending this conference again in the future and I will be actively advocating that my peers join me.

Reflective Statement: DIA 2012 Annual Meeting
By Dhaval Patel

There is no shortage when it comes to professional organizations on our campus. This past fall semester, my colleagues and I, along with several faculty members, collaborated to establish a student chapter of the Drug Information Association at University of the Sciences. This organization sets itself apart from the others on our campus in that the focus is to provide students and professionals with access to information that can help them advance their careers, skills, and innovation in pharmaceutics, biotechnology, medical devices, and related fields. I am currently a sixth-year pharmacy student and although our chapter of DIA was established late in regards to my time here at University of the Sciences, I can safely say that I have seen a large benefit to being a part of this organization.

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the DIA 2012 Annual Meeting which was held right here in Philadelphia. Over the course of four days, I had the opportunity to attend several seminars and sessions and interact with individuals across many different fields. On the first day, I attended a student forum where we learned about and discussed different aspects of applying for jobs, including making a resume. As many students have, I have sat through resume writing workshops on more than one occasion. This workshop, however, was different since it was run by individuals who are involved in the hiring process within the pharmaceutical industry. One tip that I had never previously heard was creating a summary sheet to supplement your resume, listing the companies you have worked for and the therapeutic categories you have worked with.

The first and foremost reason I decided to attend DIA 2012 was for the networking opportunity. Every day that I attended the meeting, I spoke with individuals from different fields within the industry. Everyone was so sociable and interested in hearing about who you are and why you were attending the meeting. Networking is a must when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry. Whether it is through school, internships, or professional meetings, making connections will be very beneficial when you are applying for jobs, fellowships or even looking for an out-of-network rotation during your sixth year if you are a pharmacy student.

DIA 2012 was overall a great opportunity. I attended forums and seminars that I would not have otherwise been exposed to and was able to meet many other students and professionals along the way. I am glad I was offered the opportunity to attend this meeting locally and am looking forward to attending the meeting next year in Boston. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in entering the pharmaceutical industry to attend these meetings for a strong entryway to both learning and networking opportunities. 


Welcoming science historians from around the world

This week University City will be hosting the Three Societies History of Science meeting, uniting historians of science from Canada, the UK, and the USA.  It will be an exciting opportunity to discuss the history of science, medicine and technology.  I will be giving a talk about humor in the 1930s era of the Niels Bohr Institute.  Here is a link to more information about the meeting:

Three Societies Meeting


An Extraordinary Triumph for Science

On July 4, two teams of researchers from CERN, Europe's center for particle physics research, made an extraordinary announcement, reporting the discovery of a new particle that appeared to match the profile of the long-sought Higgs boson.  One team, using the CMS detector, announced the discovery of a particle with a mass of 125 GeV (giga-electron volts), and the other, using the ATLAS detector, reported a mass of 126 GeV.  In tandem, they had found impressive evidence for a major find.

The Higgs boson is the relic of the field that filled all of space during the nascent moments of time.  In those fleeting instants, as the Higgs field transformed, it lent mass to most of the other elementary particles and caused them to differentiate in their properties.  This process, called the Higgs mechanism, is a key ingredient of the Standard Model of particle physics, explaining why there are significant differences among particles.  For example photons, the particles that carry the electromagnetic force, are massless and act over a long range, while W and Z particles, carriers of the weak interaction, are heavy and act over a short range.

One might use the analogy of water freezing into ice to think of how the Higgs mechanism works.  Imagine that the Higgs field in the hot early universe was a sea of liquid water.  Other particles moved through the sea like speed boats, each travelling at the speed of light and interacting with each other in the same way.  However, as the universe cooled, the Higgs "sea" began to freeze into tracks of slush.  Moving through these slush tracks in various directions, most of the particles were forced to slow down, becoming heavier.  The amount of mass, or heaviness acquired, depended on the angle that the particle was moving.  This led to profound differences in the properties of those particles.

For more about the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs boson, see my book Collider: A Search for the World's Smallest Particles




MOVE more & eat smarter!

DIET – what immediately comes to your mind? Does a groan escape your lips? It does from mine!  I happen to enjoy eating…especially plain M&M’s...preferably holiday colored. Ahem...I digress. 

So often we hear about the latest diets or how little we can eat on a particular food intake plan – do you really believe this way of eating is sustainable throughout your life?  Never to eat a bagel, pretzel or other carb (GASP!) again? Or drinking sugar water when you get hungry until the growling in your stomach passes?

Many of us believe that the focus of combating the obesity epidemic or perhaps in an effort to shrink our own waistline is to focus solely on restrictive food intake. Research suggests that reduce caloric intake MUST BE BALANCED with increased physical activity to produce significant and long-lasting results. Just as the individual who performs 500 crunches a day as his only form of exercise (but still over consuming calories) will not develop six-pack abs. It comes back to the old adage – calories in and calories out. What we intake in food we must output in exercise. We must combine a reduction in food intake with increased physical activity.

So WHAT a FABULOUS reason to join me each Wednesday for Walking Wednesdays & every other Tuesday for Beginners Yoga! TRY IT!  You KNOW you want to!


Fruits of the season may also help decrease the risk of obesity-related diabetes & cardiovascular disease

Ahhh...the steaminess of July brings refreshing sweet treats ripe for the picking. Choose from luscious blueberries, black raspberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, nectarines, peaches, plums, red raspberries, cherries & watermelon. Now there may be even more reason to eat these healthy fruits as a new study suggests that fruits with stones such as plums, nectarines & peaches may lower the risk of metabolic syndrome.The investigators from Texas A&M University will present more information about the study next August at the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.


The "Tyranny of the Urgent" Must Not Compromise our Commitment to our Priorities!

By Dr. Daniel A. Hussar is the Remington Professor of Pharmacy at University of the Sciences' Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He serves as the author and editor of The Pharmacist Activist newsletter (http://www.pharmacistactivist.com) from which this editorial was taken.

Many of the topics that I address in editorials in The Pharmacist Activist involve issues that I consider to be deserving of high-priority attention from our profession. The editorial in the February 2011 issue is titled, "Priorities for our Profession," and identifies ten suggested priorities. Some of these priorities have been considered in expanded discussions in subsequent editorials. Although priorities lack the authority of "commandments," there is good reason to think that nothing is more important for the profession of pharmacy than the priorities we establish and work to attain. However, there is seemingly no end to the challenges, some of which are important and urgent, that distract us and interrupt our efforts to establish our priorities and to implement strategies and action plans to make our vision and ambitions a reality. We must do more than periodically revisit, review, and revise our priorities. Their importance demands a continuing commitment and action. But we seem to never have enough time or resolve to make that commitment.

In Charles Hummel's essay, "Tyranny of the Urgent," he observes, "The issue is not so much a shortage of time as a problem of priorities." Certain of the challenges that require our urgent attention can also be identified as priorities for our profession. However, some other seemingly urgent matters do not rise to a level of importance that we should permit them to interrupt and compromise our commitment to actively address our priorities.

What are the highest priorities for our profession? Opinions differ but, perhaps, not to the extent we might initially assume. In this editorial I have identified the priorities that I consider to be the most important for our profession. They are all important but I have ranked them in what I consider to be their relative importance, with the first being the most important.

1. Commitment, passion, and activism of individual pharmacists Many pharmacists are apathetic or even negative about their individual responsibilities/employment and the profession. Tens of thousands of pharmacists are not members of even one professional association. Every pharmacist should accept a responsibility to give something back to our profession from which the vast majority of us have derived a good livelihood. Ideally, giving back should be motivated by our enthusiasm for and pride in our profession. However, apathy toward or criticism of the profession is not a valid excuse for failing to contribute to efforts to make our profession better.

The success of the profession in addressing its priorities can only result from its strength, made possible by the collective commitment and activism of its members as individuals. I have a responsibility! You have a responsibility!

2. Effective organizational structure Our profession needs an organizational structure at the national, state/regional, and local levels that will serve and advance the interests of pharmacy in a more effective manner than is being accomplished through our current system. Most, if not all, of our pharmacy organizations give primary or exclusive attention to self-preservation and growth of its own membership, programs, and finances. As important as these things are, not enough attention is being given to identifying and taking action on the issues that are of the greatest importance for the profession.

3. Vision for 2015 In late 2004 the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP), comprised of the leaders of the national pharmacy organizations, developed the following vision statement that was endorsed the following year by all of the major pharmacy practitioner organizations:

"Pharmacists will be the health care professionals responsible for providing patient care that ensures optimal medication therapy outcomes."

This vision statement is followed by a discussion titled, "Pharmacy Practice in 2015," that embraces the patient-centered role of the pharmacist, and pharmacists doing in practice what we have long been saying we are capable of doing (i.e., "walking the talk"). The development of this vision statement is a bold initiative from which patients and the profession of pharmacy can greatly benefit, and which demonstrates a positive outcome when our national professional organizations work with each other.

We can identify numerous patient-centered practice accomplishments of individual pharmacists and individual associations. However, these accomplishments are for the most part isolated and few in number compared with the potential that exists. Although the year 2015 is a goal and not a rigid deadline, it is appropriate to assess what progress has been made.

At a recent meeting of approximately 30 pharmacists, most of whom were recent graduates, I asked how many could state in general terms, "Pharmacy's vision for 2015." No one raised her/his hand. I do not fault these pharmacists for not being familiar with the vision. Rather, it is our professional organizations and colleges of pharmacy that are not communicating it adequately, or at all.

If the vision for 2015 is as important as many of us think it is, the organizations and colleges must be held accountable in communicating it and assuming much greater responsibility in its implementation.

4. Planning Pharmacy's vision for 2015 is followed by a discussion that addresses "The Foundations of Pharmacy Practice," "How Pharmacists Will Practice," and "How Pharmacy Practice will Benefit Society." However, there is little evidence that the organizations that developed the vision have communicated or worked together to develop strategies or action plans that will enable/facilitate their members and networks of pharmacists in implementing the vision.

There is a saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. The vision for 2015 is so bold and so different from what the public, other health professionals, and legislators are accustomed to receiving (or not receiving) in the way of pharmacists' services and counseling today, that strategies and comprehensive plans must be developed. One of the important topics to be addressed in the planning process is the establishment of financial models that will provide appropriate support for pharmacists who provide the services that are consistent with the vision of 2015.

5. Communication and collaboration with other health professionals Just as it is very important that there be more effective communication and collaboration within the profession of pharmacy, it is also essential that this occur between pharmacists and their professional organizations with their counterparts in the other health professions with which we work most closely. Although some might anticipate contentiousness and "turf battles," I am of the belief that the challenges of improving the health care of patients and avoiding drug- and other health-care related problems can be best met by closer working relationships between the health professionals involved in patient care. As an important step in this direction, pharmacists should be certain that they are communicating effectively with other pharmacists involved in the care of patients (e.g., when being admitted to or discharged from the hospital).

Self-assessment - what grades have we earned? It is appropriate that we assess our progress as individual pharmacists and as professional organizations in addressing these priorities. Please use the traditional academic grading system of A, B, C, D, and F in responding to the following questions.

What grades do you give yourself as an individual pharmacist with respect to priorities 1, 3, and 5 (as applicable)?

What grades do you give the national professional organization with which you are most closely associated with respect to priorities 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5?

Other issues I have limited this discussion to the consideration of 5 priorities. There are dozens of other issues that are of importance to individual pharmacists and the profession of pharmacy. Paramount among these are prescription benefit programs and their inequities for pharmacists and disservices to patients, and I have discussed these in detail in previous editorials, and will continue to do so. I recognize that if pharmacists are not compensated equitably, they will not be available to provide the scope and quality of professional services for which I am an advocate and that are the centerpiece of the vision for 2015. This is why I identify the establishment of financial models as an essential component of the plans to be developed for the implementation of the vision for 2015.

Sometimes, however, we allow the most current problem, injustice, or outrage (i.e., the urgent matters) to dominate our attention and actions to the extent that we do not give enough attention to the priorities for the profession that, in the larger picture, are of even greater importance with respect to the quality of care we provide for patients and for the advancement of our profession. If we can be highly successful in addressing these five priorities, I am confident that many of the other issues will also be resolved concurrently. The "tyranny of the urgent" must not be permitted to compromise our commitment to these priorities!

Daniel A. Hussar


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