Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education Partners with MPA on CDC Grant

Published on 14 June 2021

In recent years, the Missouri Pharmacy Association (MPA) has received a number of grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including a grant to investigate the impacts community health workers (CHW) can have on patient outcomes when they are made part of the pharmacy workflow.

Annie Eisenbeis, Pharm.D. '14, MBA, director of practice development for MPA, has led several of the CDC grant-funded projects, all highlighting the different ways pharmacists add value to the health care team.

When Eisenbeis received funding to collect data on the effectiveness of community health workers in pharmacy settings, she contacted the research team at the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis. Eisenbeis and center researchers are collaborating on data collection and analysis from three different pharmacies chosen as pilot sites.

The project focuses on how pharmacy technicians, also trained as community health workers, positively impact social determinants of health. Community health workers (CHW) play a dynamic role in their communities and organizations as an accessible resource when it comes to connecting people to the health care and community resources they need. All CHWs are required to take a course that includes didactic learning as well as opportunities to job shadow a current CHW. The course is designed to grow their knowledge of community resources that they can share with patients in need of extra support.

"A patient may come to the pharmacy and not be able to pay for their medication," Eisenbeis said. "If you don't dig into the reason of why they are unable to afford it, then you’re not helping them in their medication adherence. A CHW is trained to dig in and connect patients to the resources and support they need."

Joining Eisenbeis as a principal investigator (PI) on this project is Harrison Yoon, Pharm.D. '20, the outcomes research fellow for the center.

"Collaborating with Harrison and the other researchers at the center has been essential to the success of our data collection so far," Eisenbeis shared. "I am not a data analyst, and my simple surveys were not going to be enough for the scope of this project. To be able to connect regularly with Harrison and think strategically about data analysis and how that influences what data needs to be collected at each pilot site has been a great asset to MPA."

Yoon worked with the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education for years as a student researcher before he was granted fellowship, but this is the first research project where he is serving as a principal investigator.

"When I began my fellowship with the center, I immediately began collaborating with Annie to collect data from the three pilot sites," Yoon said. "To be the PI of a research project has been challenging, but also it's been a great learning experience. Being able to identify focal points of research to showcase the positive impacts CHWs have when integrated into the pharmacy workflow, while also taking into consideration that the people working in these pilot sites are working full time in a busy setting, especially during COVID-19, gave me the confidence as a researcher to lead data collection and effectively communicate with the other researchers."

As the PI for the project, Yoon works with Scott Micek, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCPS, professor of pharmacy practice and director of the center, Scott Griggs, Pharm.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacy administration and assistant director of the center, and Besu Teshome, Pharm.D., M.Sc., BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, utilizing their diverse backgrounds in pharmacy.

"My background is in ICU pharmacy, while Besu's background is hospital pharmacy, and Scott Griggs is in community pharmacy," Micek said. "It's been nice to collaborate and support Harrison as he leads this project, and from a mentor's standpoint, this opportunity really speaks to how a training program can utilize expertise from different backgrounds to strengthen the training and knowledge fellows have gained from their coursework and previous research experiences."

Teshome works with Yoon on another grant-funded project, also in partnership with MPA, focused on blood pressure monitoring.

"Collaborating with Harrison, I've tried to draw on my experience of working with patients in both community and hospital settings," Teshome said. "With Harrison's background in research and long-term care pharmacy, we are able to form the right questions that will allow us to capture good information."

As a student, Yoon worked with Griggs on several research projects and even completed his advanced pharmacy practice experience rotation with him.

"I think one of the foundational steps of having a fellow is developing relationships," Griggs said. "So much of research and health care is about working as a team. It's about building those networks to make the connections like we are seeing with this partnership with MPA. It's been great to see Harrison's growth and development and watch as he asks the questions that create opportunity for exploration in his new role as a PI."

University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy offers numerous opportunities for students at every level and degree path to engage in meaningful research alongside expert faculty and clinicians. Learn more about the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education.

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