A Passion for Patient-Centered Care
Published on 09 June 2017
The Health Resource Center Diabetes Clinic located in North St. Louis, is a student-run, pro bono clinic that focuses on medication management, foot exams, eye exams and educating diabetic patients on ways to improve their health. Alexandra Bixby ’17, Pharm.D., first got involved when she reached out to the Saint Louis University residents running the clinic to find a collaborative way for student pharmacists to support their health care team. She would go on to receive the United States Public Health Services Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award for her work with Health Resource Center.
“Many of those that come to the clinic have difficulties affording health care, along with their medications,” explained Bixby. “For this reason, the medical team must make recommendations to help reduce the economic burden of diabetes, as well as improve the patients’ quality of life.”
Pharmacy students are accompanied by a pharmacist as they make suggestions to the patient’s physician about medication therapy, dosing changes, potential side effects and interactions. The pharmacy students are also responsible for counseling patients about their medications and condition. In fact, one of the key roles the student pharmacists play in the clinic is researching financial assistance programs with drug manufacturers and working with patients to submit the required paperwork.
“Pharmacists have an essential role in the underserved population,” said Bixby. “Pharmacists can tailor their counseling to ensure understanding for patients with various educational backgrounds. They discuss adherence tips, side effects, proper administration techniques and alternative therapies that may reduce the financial burden for certain patients.”
In addition to her role as a student pharmacist, Bixby serves as a lead at the clinic coordinating clinic dates with medical leaders, finding pharmacist volunteers to oversee the students, and scheduling and preparing students for the clinic. Among her responsibilities at the clinic, volunteering and patient interaction have been the most rewarding.
“I met a particular patient days after his diagnosis with Type 2 Diabetes,” Bixby said. “This patient, like many that come to the clinic, was terrified of his diagnosis, the economic burden and the lifestyle changes he would have to make. I spent a considerable amount of time with this patient, assisting the medical student in obtaining a complete medical history, suggesting medications to the physician and counseling the patient about medications and the importance of foot exams, immunizations and diet changes. Although he seemed overwhelmed by the information, he incorporated many of the recommended changes into his lifestyle, prior to the following clinic visit.”
At his follow-up visit, the patient shared with Bixby that he had taken her advice and was motivated to maintain his new lifestyle and continue with her suggestions for healthy lifestyle changes.
“I felt I had made a significant difference in this patient’s life,” said Bixby. “Being involved with the clinic on a routine basis allows me to make similar connections with patients and see their progress.”
Bixby continued her role at the clinic during her final rotation year and was selected to be the pharmacy student lead for the primary care clinic that takes place every Saturday. She continues her work as a post-graduate resident at the University of Michigan.