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College of Pharmacy

Embedding Pharmacy Students into Health Care Teams

For people who live in both urban and rural settings, the most accessible medical professional is often a pharmacist. They dispense prescriptions, answer drug-related questions, and give immunizations at the neighborhood pharmacy. They also work in a variety of settings, collaborating directly with other health care practitioners, relaying key drug information, directing patient care, and conducting clinical research.

Over the past 75+ years, the University of Utah College of Pharmacy has provided Utahns with empathetic, knowledgeable, and reliable pharmacists that serve both in our state and across the nation. Students, faculty, and staff have improved community health care by providing easier access to screening, prevention, treatment plans, and consultation. One culmination of these efforts is the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC). Housed within the college, the UPCC has handled 91,263 cases across the last two years to provide care to those who may have been exposed to poisonous substances. The efforts of pharmacists, physician toxicology specialists, and student pharmacists prevent unnecessary emergency room visits and the various medical charges that ensue by providing a free 24/7 emergency telephone service (1-800-222-1222). Improving the health of the community is foundational to the College of Pharmacy. But our outreach would not be possible without the fantastic pharmacy and PhD students who want to volunteer and share their scientific gifts. Here are just a few of their remarkable efforts. In 2019, Raphael Franzini, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, introduced a program at West High School in Salt Lake City to provide opportunities for young students to engage in biomedical research projects. 

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West High has many students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in today’s STEM fields. The program, called SEARCH, is supported by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. Students receive financial support for participating in the six-week program, making it accessible for those with limited financial means. During the summer, 12 West High students participate in active research programs at the College of Pharmacy and present their findings at a poster session. Early participation in such research can provoke life-changing curiosity and also create opportunities for the participants. “The enrollment of SEARCH participants at top colleges in the country confirms the positive impact of this outreach activity,” Franzini says. 

Students also work with faculty, pharmacists, and other health care professionals in our community to generate questions and design a research project to answer their inquiries in areas ranging from medicinal chemistry or pharmacology to clinical quality improvement, medication use reviews, and medication logistics. Many times, their work is published in the medical literature to inform how patients are treated and improve the processes by which health care professionals provide care. 

For example, have you ever thought about the journey of a medication from a mail-order pharmacy to your home? Especially one that requires specific temperatures to maintain the integrity of the medication? Third and fourth-year student pharmacists did—and found out that the medications you take may be exposed to temperature variations that could impact the quality and efficacy of the medications received. As part of their required capstone research project, they developed a critical temperature indicator to include in mail-order prescription packages.

Student pharmacists also participate in the  Student-Led Clinic Initiative as part of an interprofessional team at free primary care clinics, as well as a free clinic providing access to HIV pre-exposure preventive therapy. The mission of this work is to provide effective health care to historically excluded populations while training compassionate, competent providers.

“Pharmacists are wholly valued by our physician colleagues at our institution,” says Emi Radetich, PharmD,  a 2023 graduate of the College of Pharmacy. “It has been a  pleasure  to  advocate  for  and educate other health care professionals regarding  the  capabilities of pharmacists.”

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