Fietsam Wins APhA Immunization Champion Award
Published on 18 May 2020
St. Louis College of Pharmacy alumna Sara Fietsam, Pharm.D. ‘11, American Pharmacists Association (APhA) certified instructor for travel health, diabetes and immunizations, and immunization coordinator for Schnuck Markets, Inc., was recently awarded with an honorable mention as part of APhA’s annual Immunization Champion Awards. The honor is presented to individuals and organizations within the profession of pharmacy who have made extraordinary contributions towards improved vaccination rates within their communities.
Fietsam was recognized for her work to significantly increase vaccination rates in the St. Louis metro area and throughout the state of Missouri via the implementation of APhA’s educational programs on immunization and the development of partnerships between Schnuck Markets and local and regional employers to bring vaccine clinics to area worksites. Whether working with pharmacists, organizations or individual patients, Fietsam believes that one individual can positively impact an entire community.
“I was honored to even be considered for this award at a national level,” Fietsam explained. “I love everything about my job and what I do every day. I love interacting with people in the community, building those relationships and really spreading vaccine awareness. It's such an honor to be recognized among this year’s other award recipients. When you see the incredible work that they're doing across the nation, it's truly inspiring to be considered part of that elite group.”
Fietsam began her career in 2012 when she became the pharmacy manager at the Schnucks location on Loughborough in St. Louis. In 2015, she was tasked with growing Schnucks’ immunization program both at the store level and at the corporate level.
Fietsam’s current duties with Schnucks include providing clinical support for the store pharmacy team, building relationships with employers in the region, setting vaccination goals for store teams and helping store teams achieve their vaccination goals.
Additionally, Fietsam’s APhA certification allows her to train community pharmacists throughout Missouri on how to recommend and administer vaccines.
To assist pharmacists in vaccination education, Fietsam created a pocket-sized guide on vaccination recommendations that pharmacists can refer to when working with their patients. The guide has become an especially useful tool for pharmacists who completed their education before vaccination training became standard.
Through her direct work with pharmacists, Fietsam has learned that increased education among community pharmacists regarding vaccination protocols and administration has helped bolster confidence in recommending and administering vaccines, which has yielded widespread improvement in vaccination rates.
“An example of how one pharmacist can make a community-wide impact is what I call my ‘Cinderella’ story,” Fietsam explained. “I worked with a pharmacist who had been out of school for many years and was not comfortable recommending and administering vaccines. However, once I trained her and gave her the pocket guide and other tools, she turned her store into the number-one store for vaccinations in the company, both for the flu and other diseases. Once she was on board, she got her whole team on board to provide comprehensive vaccination care.”
In her role at Schnucks, Fietsam also partners with regional employers, such as the University of Missouri System, Spire Energy, Enterprise and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. to develop on-site vaccination clinics. She notes that these clinics can reach patients who do not regularly see a doctor or a pharmacist and are missing key vaccinations.
“I and my colleagues from Schnucks go to area worksites to provide the flu vaccine, but while we’re there, we check our patients’ ages and health conditions to determine what other vaccines they may be missing,” Fietsam explained. “I counsel patients on what vaccines are recommended and what is covered by their insurance. I had one patient who was missing four key vaccines, and he was surprised that I could give him all of them right there, and that they were all covered by his insurance.”
Fietsam says that her education and training at the College prepared her not only for the scientific and technical aspects of her career but for the human element as well.
“The College really highlighted comprehensive patient care,” Fietsam explained. “There are many careers and avenues in pharmacy, but with all of them, compassionate patient care is key. At the College, I learned how to develop trusting relationships with the pharmacists I train and the patients I treat, and to provide the empathy, education and personalized care that improves our patients’ overall health and well-being.”