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11 posts from September 2013


Astronomy for Children

Introducing young children to science history offers a way for them to understand the scientific method and the process of discovery.  Ideally, they can learn that science doesn’t always take a linear path, and sometimes there are stark reversals. 


Take for example, the discovery of Pluto, its classification as a planet, and its reclassification in 2006 as a “dwarf planet.” Clearly the definition of planets has taken twists and turns throughout the years. 


I recently completed a book project with illustrator Vance Lehmkuhl with the goal of presenting the history of Pluto’s discovery and demotion, as well as a brief history of the discovery of the Solar System’s planets in general.  More information about the book is at:

What's the Matter with Pluto? The Story of Pluto's Adventures with the Planet Club


Mayes College Professor Published in CEA Registry

A study published in 2012 by Amalia M. Issa, PhD, chair of The Department of Health Policy and Public Health,  titled, “Cost effectiveness of gene expression profiling for early stage breast cancer: a decision-analytic model,” has been recently included in the Tufts Medical Center Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (CEA) Registry.

Issa_PortraitThis registry is a comprehensive database of more than 3,604 English-language cost-utility analyses on a wide variety of diseases and treatments. It catalogs information on more than 9,800 cost-effectiveness ratios, and more than 13,500 utility weights published in the peer-reviewed literature. The registry also details studies published from 1976 through 2012, and is regularly updated.

Many of the articles included in the registry are used by policy makers, and are used or cited in analyses performed by the U.S. Environmental Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Institute of Medicine, Medicare Payment Assessment Commission, academia and industry. All articles undergo a rigorous screening and review process prior to their selection and inclusion in the registry.


USciences PT Professor Featured in Prevention Magazine

Thielman_0If your back aches after a long commute or you get a stiff neck from working at the computer, bad posture may be to blame. “Unfortunately, people ignore proper posture until they have some pain,” says Dr. Gregory Thielman, an associate professor of physical therapy at University of the Sciences.

Click here to continue reading the entire article...


Mayes College Student Discusses 'Time and Technology'

Andrew Lyle PhB'15, published an article in Star Life Sciences Medical Monitor on Sept. 20, 2013, titled, "Time and Technology."

Over time, new technology reaches different generations and target markets. As older doctors retire, newly minted medical professionals are taking over— and this new generation of healthcare professionals grew up with computers, video games, and cell phones.

Click here to this entire article.



Learning and Living the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in Real Time

This fall, masters and doctoral students in the Department of Health Policy and Public Health at University of the Sciences are examining the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it evolves in real time.

MetrauxIn the seminar course led by Steve Metraux, PhD, associate professor of health policy and public health, graduate students meet weekly to discuss topics such as the politics that led to the passage of the ACA, how the ACA fits into the history of healthcare reform in the United States, the legal and constitutional aspects of the ACA, and the nuts and bolts of the ACA.

A range of experts, both from the USciences faculty and from the greater Philadelphia region will join the seminar to lead discussions and explain how the ACA impacts particular facets of health and health care.

But beyond that, the seminar will seek to capture history-in-the-making by following the day-to-day events related to the ACA as its key component, the insurance exchanges, start their open enrollment.

Issa_Portrait“Watching the biggest health policy story in years unfold week by week adds a new dimension of excitement to studying policy,” said Dr. Metraux. “This seminar seeks to provide students with the tools not only to understand how we got here, but also to assess how such policy might likely unfold.”

Amalia M. Issa, PhD, professor and chair of health policy and public health, added, “Our students are going to be on the front lines of healthcare delivery and shaping policy. They need to have an understanding of the Act, apply their critical thinking skills to the issues, and evaluate the impact of the ACA on addressing current and future problems in health systems.”


PCP Student: High Tech Tools for Medication Adherence

Anita Pothen is currently a 6th year pharmacy student at the University of the Sciences-Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. In addition to her interests in medication adherence and writing, Anita's pharmacy-related experiences include working in retail, hospital and government agency settings. - See more at: http://www.starlifebrands.com/author/apothen/#sthash.qLh4jlSX.d

Anita Pothen PharmD'14, published an article in Star Life Sciences Medical Monitor on Sept. 18, 2013, titled, "High Tech Tools for Medication Adherence."

Medication adherence is a topic of interest for healthcare providers, caregivers, and payers — and, of course, patients. Practitioners work hard to select optimal drug therapy for their patients, but they don’t always see the expected clinical improvements.

Click here to read the full article...

Medication adherence is a topic of interest for healthcare providers, caregivers, and payers—and, of course, patients. Practitioners work hard to select optimal drug therapy for their patients, but they don’t always see the expected clinical improvements. This inefficacy in treatment often stems from patients’ inability - See more at: http://www.starlifebrands.com/author/apothen/#sthash.qLh4jlSX.dpuf


USciences Student Discovers the True Meaning of Happiness

Michael Gredzik MB’13,  DPT’17, has been fortunate in life to live in two culturally and economically developed countries, Poland and the United States. In this blog entry, he shares his experience traveling to Jamaica on a mission trip.

Through traveling back and forth from Poland and the United States, I have met so many interesting and wonderful people.  These interactions inspired me to become more self-aware of different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs. During my second year at USciences, I became interested in learning the true meaning of happiness. I began researching documentaries on YouTube regarding different ways of life.

After listening to my Microbiology Professor Dr. James Johnson speak about the earthquake in Haiti and watching the short movies, I realized that I wanted to discover the intrinsic motivation that drove people to volunteer in third world countries. Instead of continuing to watch these movies, I wanted to get a firsthand account by volunteering.

Unsure of how to go about volunteering, I decided to seek advice from my friends, especially Father Jim McGuin of Saint Agatha and James Parish on University of Pennsylvania. During one of our many discussions, he recommended that I look into the Missionaries of the Poor. As I looked over the webpage, I became more and more excited with the idea of helping others.  I decided to contact Brother Rodger, who is in charge of the volunteers, to get further information regarding their organizational mission. Once I was cleared to volunteer, I began to plan my journey to Jamaica. I quickly took on two jobs, one at a country club and the other at a local church, to generate enough funds to financially support my trip.

When I first landed in Kingston, Jamaica, my nerves got the best of me because I was so scared of the unknown. I was traveling alone to a third world country not knowing what to expect. Once the Brothers picked up from the airport, I began feeling relaxed and calm. As I was getting settled in at the visitor’s center, I began to wonder what was in store for me tomorrow. I woke up bright and early at 6 a.m., ready to get my day started. The first day was a little overwhelming trying to get adjusted to my surrounding environment since I was accustomed to more comfortable lifestyle. As the day went on, I became more open and willing to interact with people. On a daily basis my responsibilities included shaving the beards of the male residents, working with AIDS residents, building relationships with physically and mentally challenge people, discussing life experiences with the elderly, and dressing up the children residents for Sunday mass.

Throughout the week of service, I encountered so many people from all walks of life, including people from Uganda, Kenya, the Philippines, India, Canada, Alabama, Louisiana, Poland, and Dominican Republic. I also met Syrian Refugees, who were taken in by the Brothers at a request by an individual representing the United Nations. Meeting these individuals reemphasized my passion for helping others.

I was able to experience so many inspiring and impactful moments, but the one that stands out the most took place on the fifth day of my stay. I was in a residence’s home that was primary for men with physical and mental disabilities. I was in charge of changing the bedcovers, disinfecting the mattresses, and feeding the men who were unable to feed themselves. While I was feeding the men, I realized that I shouldn’t take people for granted because they resembled someone I knew. Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that the simple pleasures in life make me happy, such as my family, friends, education, and musical pursuits.

I envision returning next year but this time for two weeks. As of now, I will be once again traveling alone; however, it would be nice for some of my peers from USciences to join me on this amazing adventure.  It would be cool to have someone who is more technologically advanced than I to digitally document the experience while at the same time helping others. 

If you would like to hear more about my journey and join me next year, contact me at mgredzik@mail.usciences.edu.

Health Tip: Skinny, Fat, Old, Young: All at Risk for High Cholesterol

image from www.gradschool.usciences.eduTo attract customers, restaurant chains have been rolling out budget deals, offering $5 pizzas, $3 meals — even $1 sandwiches. But while these new offerings are light on its customers’ wallets, they hit them where it hurts in terms of calories, fat, and sodium content.

Unfortunately, some of most common patrons of these restaurants are college students looking to get the best bang for their buck. In observance of National Cholesterol Education Month, Karin Richards, interim chair of the Department of Kinesiology and program director of health sciences at University of Sciences, addresses important heart-healthy tips to help college students avoid serious health conditions down the road.

 “Nobody can eat anything they want and stay heart-healthy because all body types are at risk for high cholesterol,” said Richards. “While overweight people are more likely to have high cholesterol, thin people should also have their cholesterol checked regularly because people who don’t gain weight easily are less aware of how much fat they actually consume.”

  1. Check your family tree. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a disorder of high LDL, or bad, cholesterol that is passed down through families, which means it is inherited. Because the condition begins at birth and can cause heart attacks at an early age, it is vital for young adults to be in tune with their families’ health backgrounds.
  2. Moderation is key. While fried and fast foods do not have to be completely eliminated from diets; they should be consumed sporadically rather than every day.
  3. Substitute foods. Because egg yolk boasts high cholesterol, opt for egg whites instead. The same concept can be applied when choosing snacks, go for air popped popcorn over potato chips. There’s a healthy alternative to every meal.
  4. Get moving. Too many people focus on their diets, and neglect exercise. Aim to “move” for 30 minutes each day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away in a parking lot, or jogging, walking, biking, and rollerblading as means of transportation. 
  5. Get screened. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the level of bad cholesterol among young adults ranges from 7 percent to 26 percent; however, the screening rate among this age group is less than 50 percent.

Richards said University of the Sciences students are offered free cholesterol and body composition screenings through its Department of Kinesiology. If abnormal results are recorded, students are encouraged to visit their primary care providers for further examination.

“Sometimes it takes eye-opening results for young adults to see that they are not invincible to potentially fatal health conditions, like heart disease. It’s never too late to start the transformation to a healthy lifestyle,” said Richards.

Richards obtained a Master of Science in sport management from Slippery Rock University, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in health policy at USciences. She is nationally certified as a wellness practitioner and wellness program coordinator by the National Wellness Institute, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and American College of Sports Medicine.


PCP Student Gains Worldview of Pharmaceutical Industry

SEP group picture

Grace Chun PharmD’16 recently traveled overseas to participate in the International Pharmaceutical Student Federation’s annual World Congress event. Here’s what she had to say:

International Pharmaceutical Student Federation (IPSF) is the only international advocacy group for the student pharmacists. IPSF aims to promote public health through wide range of global networking and initiating global health campaigns, such as World AIDS Day and World Tobacco Day. Along with close collaboration with the International Pharmaceutical Federation, IPSF holds official relations with the World Health Organization, as well. The largest meeting for the IPSF members is the annual World Congress, a conference for the pharmacy students and pharmacists from all around the globe.

This year’s 59th annual World Congress was held in Utrecht, Netherlands, from July 30 to Aug. 9. The experience as a U.S. participant at the conference was truly an asset because I broadened my scope in the pharmacy practice. At the conference, I have participated in the international patient counseling event, attended career exhibitions, and engaged in memorable networking experiences.

The highlight of the World Congress was the international night where the students gathered to express their cultures and customs through dance and delicious pastries. I was able to taste Sake from Japan and amazing chocolates from Belgium. I also learned lovely traditional Sweden dance to exciting “Gangnam Style” dance from Korea.

World Congress does not only comprise of symposiums and general assemblies but consist of true international gathering to embrace each other’s cultures. Only those who attended IPSF World Congress can understand the meaning of international pharmacy experience. It was fortunate for me and Dana Lee to participate in a great experience to represent the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. I wish I could engage more PCP students to engage in international pharmacy, as I was able to broaden my horizon. I was able to see how the government in Denmark works closely with pharmacists to improve healthcare systems, and also experience how Switzerland pharmacists work together with physicians to improve patient-care.

I have come to understand the meaning of “viva la pharmacie” thanks to this conference, and only those who attend the conference will be able to experience this motto to the fullest. As the newly elected Pan-American Regional Office (PARO) Secretary, I will continue to serve IPSF and carry out the motto, “viva la pharmacie!”

Student Exchange Program at PCP: One of the assets of IPSF is the Student Exchange Program, which allows students to explore pharmacy practice in different countries. After careful and objective analysis of each applicant, the member association of IPSF organizes the exchanges by finding the practice sites. The practice sites include community pharmacies, wholesale companies, pharmaceutical industry, government or private health agencies.

PCP is one of the few colleges of pharmacy that can host SEP students in the United States. As of last year, PCP was approved as one of few host sites in the U.S. This year was the second annual student exchange program held at PCP to allow an international student to have a chance to experience what pharmacy means outside his or her country’s practice.

On July 7, Thibault Ali, a student from Strasbourg, France, came to our institution for a month to experience community, compounding, and industry pharmacy experience through our APhA-ASP/IPSF chapter. He began his stay with a tour around USciences and a luncheon with the faculty members.

He was able to experience community pharmacy at Sunray Pharmacy, and compounding pharmacy at The Art of Medicine. Thibault also had an industry experience at Johnson and Johnson and learned about medical information and drug products. He experienced industry rotation with other sixth-year pharmacy students at PCP.

Not only he experienced pharmacy practice, he was exposed to American culture as he visited the Philadelphia Phillies game with Dr. Melody, Shakespeare play with Dr. Earl, and many other Philadelphia’s attractions with fellow IPSF members. This program not only allowed Thibault to gain an insight to pharmacy practice in the U.S., but allowed our chapter to acknowledge new ideas from understanding Thibault’s country’s practice.

Special Acknowledgement: I would like to acknowledge Dr. Hussar for advising and supporting World Congress to allow PCP students to broaden their horizon in the field of pharmacy practice. Also, I sincerely thank Drs. Schwartz, Earl, Melody, Decker, Blustein, as well as all the preceptors, professors, and dedicated IPSF members who gave tremendous support to successfully achieve Student Exchange Program at PCP. 

Someone said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” The teachers may come in many forms but the professors whom I worked together for IPSF projects were all in a single form: the inspired.


Mail-order Pharmacy Threatens the Role of Pharmacists as Health Professionals

By Dr. Daniel A. Hussar, 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.

The comment I hear most often from independent pharmacists regarding the financial challenges they face is: "I can compete with the chain pharmacies in my community. It is the mail-order prescription programs and their unfair incentives that steal my patients that are the greatest threat to the survival of my pharmacy."

The pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and insurance companies that are the primary advocates for mail-order pharmacy have been successful in perpetuating what I consider to be a myth that obtaining prescriptions from mail-order pharmacies is less expensive than obtaining prescriptions from local pharmacies. Because it is only the PBMs and insurance companies that have the pertinent data (designated as proprietary to avoid providing it to others) and dictate the financial terms of prescription benefit programs, they are in a position to manage/manipulate this information to their advantage. Advocates for local pharmacies have had only very limited success in refuting this message.

An issue for our entire profession

Many within pharmacy consider mail-order pharmacy to be an issue that only affects community pharmacy. I contend that it is of importance for our entire profession for reasons that go beyond the fact that community pharmacy is by far the largest area of pharmacy practice and, therefore, is the experience through which most of the public relate to and identify the profession of pharmacy.

Mail-order pharmacy promotes the message that it is not necessary or important for a patient to meet face-to-face with a pharmacist when they obtain prescription medications. Individually and collectively, pharmacists take great pride in our role and services as health professionals. But is not a personal relationship and communication with patients the very foundation of the role of individuals considered to be health professionals? Can anyone imagine a physician, dentist, or nurse in practice responsibilities fulfilling their role as health professionals without actually seeing patients? However, the owners and advocates for mail-order pharmacies have equated the dispensing of prescription medications to the sale of commodities in a manner that demeans and threatens the role of pharmacists as health professionals. This must be considered of great importance for our entire profession. Our profession is currently giving a very high priority to efforts to obtain "provider status" for pharmacists. These efforts are very important and should be strongly supported. However, to what extent is our profession taking action, or even voicing concern, about the threat to our recognition as health professionals represented by mail-order pharmacy?

In addition to promoting mail-order pharmacy, some PBMs are taking steps to limit the number of local pharmacies that are included in their "networks." These PBMs allege that certain legislative initiatives would require them to include in their networks pharmacies that "overcharge," without acknowledging that differences in charges may result from differences in services that could reduce the costs associated with the occurrence of drug-related problems. They further contend that permitting all interested pharmacies to participate in their programs is inefficient and increases costs. They attempt to justify decisions to exclude certain pharmacies from their networks and the resulting inconveniences for patients by suggesting that there are so many pharmacies that patients should not be inconvenienced. The president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), the organization that represents PBMs, has stated: "The United States has more pharmacies than it has McDonalds, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Wendys, Taco Bells, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Domino Pizzas, and Dunkin Donuts combined."

Pharmacy's political strength (or lack thereof)

The PCMA president's comment about the number of pharmacies was intended to promote the interests of the PBMs to the disadvantage of pharmacies that would be excluded from the PBM networks. I was surprised that the number of pharmacies is higher than all those fast food organizations combined. But I am not going to count them and I will take his word for it. However, I will urge that we use the number of pharmacies to our profession's advantage.

The profession of pharmacy needs to organize and mobilize the large number of local pharmacists and others who support them to attain political strength that will result in actions and programs from which our patients, communities, and profession will all benefit. All of the national, state, and local organizations of pharmacists that are committed to protecting and advancing the professional role of pharmacists should be active participants in this effort and support it with staff and resources.

The profession of pharmacy is not even close to attaining its potential with respect to political strength and influence. This situation must change!

Additional strategies

In addition to developing and enacting legislation that will protect patient choices in selecting a pharmacy and protect pharmacies from restrictive and coercive programs imposed by PBMs, additional strategies must also be pursued. I recommend the following:

  1. We must determine the number of prescriptions that residents in a particular state are receiving from a mail-order pharmacy in another state, and the estimated dollar value of those prescriptions. The largest mail-order pharmacies are located in a small number of states with the result that prescriptions with a total value of many millions of dollars are being sent out of most states each year. In addition to this data, the loss of tax and other revenues that a state experiences when pharmacies close, as well as the reduction or lack of growth in the number of employees in pharmacies because of the extent to which prescriptions are sent out of state, must be included in the financial analysis of the impact of mail-order pharmacy programs on a state's economy.
  2. We must strive to determine (to the extent possible in what are typically highly confidential transactions) the terms under which PBMs and mail-order pharmacies have established agreements for prescription programs with employers, unions, and government agencies. Rumors of kickbacks or other inappropriate payments or incentives must be investigated by the appropriate authorities. Individuals who are aware of illegal or other inappropriate actions should consider being a whistleblower if the situation enables participation in that capacity.
  3. Engage others in the community in developing and promoting programs that encourage "buying local." I recently read the book, Switch - How to Change Things when Change is Hard (Chip Heath and Dan Heath; Broadway Books, 2010). It was very thought-stimulating and enjoyable, and I highly recommend it. One of the experiences that the authors described was especially intriguing. It involved a small town and surrounding county in South Dakota in the mid-1990s. The population was declining; many of the residents were elderly and, when the young people were old enough, they left and didn't return. A high school teacher and his business class decided to analyze the situation. They constructed a survey to which members of the community responded and one of the findings was particularly noteworthy - one-half of the residents were doing significant shopping outside the county, driving for as long as an hour to go to larger stores. The class developed a plan around the theme of buying local that they presented to community leaders and residents. They estimated that if residents would spend 10% more of their disposable income at home, they would increase the local economy by $7 million. The community was energized and enthusiastically participated in various phases of the program. After one year, the amount of money spent in the county had increased by $15.6 million. The improved economy provided more tax revenue that the community could commit to support other needs and programs.

    Thousands of communities throughout the country are experiencing similar situations. Pharmacists are well positioned to provide leadership in developing initiatives such as this one that will be of benefit for the entire community and, of course, will also keep prescriptions local.
  4. The national pharmacy organizations should provide a prescription drug benefit program for their employees that will serve as such a positive model that other organizations will want to consider a similar program for their employees. The program should include medication therapy management (MTM) and the full range of other professional services that pharmacists are in a position to provide. If such a prescription benefit program is not presently available in the communities in which the employees of our professional organizations reside, our organizations should provide the financial support and leadership to establish such programs. It is imperative that this be done. If our organizations that are the primary advocates for the provision of comprehensive services by pharmacists are not assuring such services for their own employees, how will we convince other organizations/employers that they should do this for their employees?
  5. The profession of pharmacy must establish our own prescription benefit program that will compete with the programs of the PBMs and insurance companies. We have the expertise and motivation to establish the best program that will provide the greatest benefit for patients in assuring optimum therapeutic outcomes and avoiding drug-related problems. I also believe that this program can be financially competitive with other programs and, very possibly, be even more cost effective because of the extent to which drug-related problems and associated costs will be substantially reduced. This action is very important for our entire profession and all of our national organizations that have a commitment to increase the role of pharmacists in providing services and care for patients should be participants. It will be a major step in recapturing control of our destiny.

Daniel A. Hussar

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