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3 posts from July 2013


USciences Students and Faculty Target Substance Abuse and Addiction in Utah

From June 16-21, five students and two faculty members attended the University of Utah School on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependencies. Each year since 1988, the University has sent students, faculty, and staff to this one-week program on addiction. Students return with a strong desire to work on campus to heighten awareness of the devastating effects of substance abuse and addiction.

This year attendees were: PCP Vice Dean Dr. Cathy Poon, Professor and Dean Emeritus Dr. George Downs, Ashley Krumenacker PharmD’15, Terry Pak PharmD’16, Melanie Bersten PharmD’16, Theresa-Rose Woodward PharmD’15, and Matthew Forman PharmD’16.

Bersten and Woodward provided first person reflections of their experiences.

by Melani Bersten PharmD’16

I was given the opportunity to attend the University of Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, 63rd annual convention on Alcoholism and Chemical dependencies. The conference was an impressive gathering of various professionals, such as pharmacists, doctors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers-many of whom are recovering from their own addictions. As a pharmacy student, it was very real to see working pharmacists share their experiences about their addiction, the consequences of their actions and their steps to recovery. Before attending this conference, I had no knowledge of the state of addiction, its prevalence in all aspects of society, as well as how addicts were able to achieve recovery. After attending the convention, I now view addiction as a biopsychosocial and spiritual disease that has devastating consequences to the using addict and every person in their life.

Learning the physiology behind addiction was very important to me as a pharmacy student because I rely on medical knowledge and a concrete understanding of the physiological and psychological changes that occur within an addict to better understand what motivates their actions. Addiction can be described as an abnormal response to a mood altering substance that has a genetic component and further disorders in the brain systems of reward, memory, stress and choice. The drug of choice changes the wiring in the brain to become necessary for survival and addicts will be unable to recover independently.

While I enjoyed learning about disease theories, the real knowledge I gained was about treatment options and how important a support group is to the recovering alcoholic. This conference gave me valuable insight into the addict’s psychology because I was able to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings-something I would have never chosen to attend on my own, due to lack of interest and fear of not being welcome there. Until I read the 12 steps myself, I was unaware of their powers and importance within the AA program. The atmosphere in Utah was very welcoming, and I was able to converse with many recovering pharmacists who shared their very real addiction stories. The group therapy meeting was very emotional and changed the way I look at addiction because I felt so connected to every individual in the room and realized that we all had a mutual understanding. Unless we as a society change the way we see addiction, not as a behavior but as a disease, then addiction will continue to prevail and devastate countless lives. It is our duty to want to help our fellow human beings and the current societal views of neglect and hate towards addiction are obviously ineffective. 

I am very grateful to SARPH for providing me with this opportunity, and I look forward to sharing more of my experience with other PCP students that may be interested in attending. I like to think this is only the beginning, as the Utah Experience gave me my first taste of addiction, and it is up to me and my fellow PCP students to create and implement new ideas that will change the way society looks at addiction and change the way we treat addiction. 

by Theresa-Rose Woodward PharmD’15

My experience at the University of Utah School is one that I will value throughout my career as a pharmacist. I am so grateful that I was able to attend. The lectures we participated in have provided numerous lessons and a better understanding of a subject that student pharmacists do not know a great deal about. As I begin my career, I am confident that I have a better understanding of the disease of addiction.

One statement in particular stood out to me during one of the lectures. It was simple but it is one that has reverberated. “You wouldn’t deny a diabetic care and you can’t deny the addict either.” Society has placed a stigma on those battling addiction as horrible people. The University of Utah School opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. Addiction is its own disease state. Patients who are battling with addiction need appropriate treatment and support to begin recovery.  

Attending the group therapy sessions, the Alcoholics Anonymous, the Narcotics Anonymous, and the AlAnon meetings were the best part of the week. Hearing the personal stories of recovery was so inspiring. While I may not be battling addiction, the messages each person conveyed can be applied to all people and came at a very important time in my life. There will be difficult times but if you keep hope and persevere, the issues will pass.

I am so grateful to Dr. Downs and to SARPH for allowing me to attend the University of Utah School. The experiences and the education I received will influence me throughout my career as I strive to provide the best patient care. Thank you again!






Behavioral Factors Associated with Initial Medication Adherence

Patients have to get their first prescription filled before they even start receiving the benefits of medications.   Barriers to this initial adherence include economic factors, physical factors, and even certain patient characteristics.  Our literature review and analysis, excerpted here, showed that there exists some interventions which might be able to help improve initial adherence.

Happy Reading!


Comparative Effectiveness Panel Discussion - Making the Connections

In April 2013, Mayes College of Healthcare Business and Policy held a panel discussion on Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER).

In this panel discussion, we asked stakeholders in the public health and policy sectors, along with providers and businesses leaders, to educate the audience on, its strengths, limitations and potential to affect patients, populations and systems of care.  Leaders representing health plans, the government, the providers and the pharmaceutical industry all presented their perspective on CER’s impact on the healthcare system.

Each presenter gave a 15 minute talk on CER from their perspective.  Jean-Paul Gagnon gave a good overview of CER and an introduction to the panel.  Then, Steven Uvarhelyi addressed the payer perspective, David Hickam gave the government perspective, Brian Sweet gave the industry perspective and Michael Painter wrapped it up with the system perspective.   Afterwards, there was a great interactive audience question/answer session followed by a  reception during which continued conversations abounded.   For more information about the session, see here. 

This was an informative and provocative panel discussion which has spurned discussion across campus on how USciences can get more involved in CER projects now and in the future.  Stay tuned as more arises!

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