STLCOP Recognized for Community Service Efforts
Published on 01 December 2013
From the moment students begin classes at the College until the time they receive their diplomas, they are constantly encouraged to engage patients, build relationships, and advance health care.
Each year, students, faculty, and staff volunteer thousands of hours in activities that improve the community. For the first time, the College was recognized for that effort by being named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This is the highest
honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.
“The Honor Roll recognition acknowledges the hard work that every member of the College does to improve the health and well-being of those living in the St. Louis region,” says College President John A. Pieper, Pharm.D. “Through our work with area organizations, we’re demonstrating how pharmacists are an integral part of both the community and the health care team.”
The College was commended for the community service performed over the past year. Recognized programs included hands-on education students provide each week at the Saint Louis Science Center, volunteer efforts to raise money to fight Type 1 diabetes, and initiatives to help patients with asthma.
One area in which the College has served is advocating for the removal of unwanted and potentially dangerous medication from homes. On April 27, a record 16,311 pounds of medication from the St. Louis metropolitan area was discarded as part of the St. Louis Medication Disposal Initiative.
The College partnered with the city of St. Louis and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to establish collection points in the city. There were 93 other disposal sites spread across the region. This year’s collection emphasized disposal of unused prescription pain medications.
“Medication abuse often starts with teens taking medications from the homes of family and friends,” says Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., associate professor and director of professional affairs at the College. “Unfortunately, prescription pain medications may act as a gateway to illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. Removing unwanted medications from your home helps protect not only your family but also the entire community.”
The College’s efforts are making headway. The April collection brought in 30 percent more medication than in 2012. In the three years the Medication Disposal Initiative has
been underway at the College, the DEA has collected more than 52,000 pounds of medication in the St. Louis area.
Tiemeier also serves as the faculty coordinator for Pharmacy Phun, a collaboration between the College and the Saint Louis Science Center. Each week during the school year, students lead both child and adult Science Center visitors through hands-on learning projects. Some of the more popular activities include grinding up candy with a mortar and pestle and creating a cornstarch mixture, which resembles mucus.
“It’s fun teaching the children and seeing them make connections,” says sixth-year student and teaching assistant Zenia George. “We work hard to make sure the activities are engaging for the kids and their parents. There’s also the added benefit of students learning important lessons about communicating with patients of all ages.”
George has been a teaching assistant for the Science Center lab, showing other students how to lead activities and tailor them to an appropriate age level. Students at the
College have the opportunity to work at the Science Center as part of the introductory pharmacy practice experience class in the second year of the professional program.
As part of the same class, students perform asthma health screenings across the region through the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Healthy Kids Express program.
“In partnering with community pharmacists and institutions like BJC Healthcare, we’re helping people breathe their best,” says Theresa Prosser, Pharm.D., professor of pharmacy practice. “Childhood asthma and hospitalization rates in St. Louis are the highest in the state. Annually St. Louis ranks as one of the worst places in the nation to live with asthma. Improving asthma control is a public health priority.”
Prosser and fellow STLCOP faculty members Tricia Berry, Pharm.D., and Sue Bollmeier, Pharm.D., run the Asthma Friendly Pharmacies® (AFP) program.
“Pharmacists improve asthma control by checking and correcting patient’s technique,” Bollmeier says.
The AFP leaders made a commitment that all graduates of the College are ready to teach patients how to use respiratory devices. All fifth-year students receive a placebo toolkit to practice device technique and counseling. Last year on rotations, sixth-year students reported providing more than 4,100 educational messages to patients and informing patients’ health care providers of more than 1,300 asthma medication problems.
The College’s engagement with the community stretches beyond the classroom, pharmacy, and hospital. President Pieper was named the honorary chair for the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes for the Greater Missouri/Southern Illinois chapter of JDRF for the second year in a row.
The charity’s main focus is finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Tens of thousands attend the walk near the College’s campus in Forest Park each year.
On the weekend before Halloween, the College also hosts a party with JDRF dubbed Boo Fest. It’s a fun afternoon for children with Type 1 diabetes and their family to enjoy a sugar-free environment with games and activities, as well as have meaningful interactions with students at the College.
“Students really put extra effort into making sure everyone has a great time,” says Rebecca Jones, director of academic support. “We’ve been hosting Boo Fest for seven years, and it is always so rewarding to see the smiles on the faces of the children, their parents, and the students.”
Whether volunteering at an event or checking a patient’s vital signs, students at the College are immersed in a culture of service reinforcing the impact pharmacists have on the community every day.