Vital Record » Pharmacy Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:32:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Health Science Center announces 2015 Commencement ceremonies, speakers Tue, 07 Apr 2015 19:19:38 +0000 State and national healthcare leaders will address students graduating in medicine, nursing, public health, pharmacy and dentistry]]>

The Texas A&M Health Science Center will host its 2015 commencement ceremonies in May at locations across the state.14335732762_d3357a9745_k

The first ceremony will take place on Friday, May 8, when the College of Nursing holds its commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. in Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station. The featured speaker will be Janelle Shepard, B.S.N., M.B.A., senior director of care transitions for the Texas Health Alliance and a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Commencement ceremonies for the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health will be held in Rudder Auditorium on Saturday, May 9. The ceremony for School of Public Health graduates will begin at 9 a.m. and will feature James F. Sallis, Ph.D., distinguished professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego and director of Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sallis is one of the world’s most cited authors in the social sciences, and has been featured in Time magazine as one of the four most effective scientists currently working to address America’s obesity problem.

The ceremony for College of Medicine graduates will begin at 2 p.m. and will feature Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Ling has launched several well-publicized projects at DARPA, including the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which is trying to develop a robotic human arm, and the PREVENT program, which focuses on blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). Prior to joining DARPA, Ling was an Army doctor and a professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is considered to be the Army’s premier subject matter expert on TBI and was one of the doctors who treated U.S. Sen. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in 2011.

Thomas Menighan, Sc.D., MBA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, will be the featured speaker at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy’s commencement ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, May 23, at 2 p.m. in the Steinke Physical Education Center in Kingsville. Menighan has founded several pharmacy-related companies, including SynTegra Solutions Inc., SymRx Inc., and©.

Maxine Fienberg, D.D.S., president of the American Dental Association, will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony for the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, which will be held on Wednesday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

Admission to all commencement ceremonies is free and does not require a ticket. For additional information, visit the Texas A&M University commencement website.

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The pressure is on: Disaster Day teaches students how to work together in an emergency Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:57:02 +0000 More than 400 students from colleges throughout the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Blinn College participated in the 2015 edition of Disaster Day, an annual exercise designed to give future health care professionals experience working together in an emergency]]>

A rapidly moving wildfire had been making its way toward Bryan/College Station and finally hit around 2 a.m. It came from the south and engulfed two out of the three hospitals in the area. To make matters worse, winds sparked a fire in a gas tanker that was filling up a local gas station, causing a massive explosion that struck unsuspecting students standing outside a nearby high school.

Fortunately, at a local church, a team of about 200 medical professionals is standing by to help.


More than 400 future health care professionals participated in the 2015 Disaster Day.

This was the scenario as students from colleges throughout the Texas A&M Health Science Center prepared to take part in the 2015 edition of Disaster Day, an annual exercise designed to give future health care professionals experience working together in an emergency. The event – which is one of the largest disaster simulations in the country – is planned and executed by students in the Texas A&M College of Nursing, with guidance from faculty members. The scenario was replayed in both the morning and afternoon to give as many students as possible the opportunity to participate.

In all, more than 400 future health care professionals participated in the event this year, including students from the Texas A&M College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Public Health and Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, as well as nursing and radiology students from Blinn College. Approximately 700 community volunteers also participated, including about 200 high school students from Bryan and College Station.

The students gathered at Central Baptist Church in College Station, which in real life has been designated as an emergency relief center for Brazos County in the event of an emergency. Inside the church’s auxiliary building, rows of cots were neatly arranged in lettered rows and a pharmacy station was set up in the middle.

At the beginning of the exercise, the students all lined up against the walls to hear the scenario. Then they divided into teams and went to work treating volunteers who served as patients, all of whom were realistically made up to appear injured. Some patients were so convincing it was hard to tell it was just an exercise.

In Pod 1, first-year nursing student Micah Rimmer was part of a team that headed first to attend to a middle-aged woman who was having trouble breathing. Rimmer checked her pulse, while other members of the team took the woman’s blood pressure and temperature and checked her heart. The team administered oxygen to the woman and asked if there was anyone they could call for her.

On the next bed, a woman was lying down and holding her head as she screamed in pain. Her face was covered in soot. The team decided to order an EKG and gave her some Tylenol to help with the pain.

Suddenly, over in Pod 3 came a cry of “Code Blue,” one of five life-or-death cases the team working in that area had to deal with right off the bat, in addition to a woman giving birth. Despite performing CPR on the patient for 15 minutes, they lost him.

“He had intestinal bleeding and needed surgery, which we couldn’t provide,” explained Laurelyn Kramer, a senior nursing student who was taking part in her second Disaster Day exercise.

After administering CPR to the bleeding patient, Kramer’s team turned its attention to a firefighter who had come in with burns on his arm and was dizzy and weak. His blood pressure was low and his eyes had black circles under them from lack of sleep. The team also put him on oxygen and gave him some Tylenol.

On the next row over, a young girl was sitting on a cot with a fractured ankle. Kramer put her ankle in a splint and told the girl to go home, elevate the leg, and put ice on it. She told the girl she will need to go get a cast on the ankle in a few days once the crisis has passed. Kramer found some crutches for the girl and made sure she knew how to use them before she was discharged.

No sooner had the girl hobbled away on crutches than a woman with a burned hand walked in crying and in a panic because her friend was missing. A nursing student poured alcohol onto a gauze bandage and wrapped the hand, while another student went to try and find the woman’s friend.

The exercise went on for an hour and a half, during which each team had the opportunity to treat at least three patients. By the end of the exercise, trashcans scattered around the room were overflowing with gloves, used paper sheets and bandage packaging.

“This was a great experience,” said Micah Rimmer, the first-year nursing student who was working in Pod 1. Rimmer admitted to being anxious at the beginning of the exercise, but said it should help him when he gets to his coursework on acute care.

“No one died in our pod, so I couldn’t have done too badly,” he said.

Francis Onyebuchi, a third-year medical student who worked in Pod 3, said the exercise showed him how mentally prepared medical professionals need to be to work in such a crisis situation. “I was so stressed it was hard to think,” he said.

Onyebuchi said the exercise helped him learn the importance of communication and teamwork.

“Team management is what keeps patients alive,” he said.


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Q&A: An important step forward for Rx drug abuse Mon, 09 Mar 2015 13:47:47 +0000 Every 25 seconds, someone loses their life to a prescription drug overdose; and in 2012, drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury death among 25-to-64 year olds. Pharmacist Bree Watzak discusses what the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy is doing to prepare students to combat prescription drug abuse that leads to overdoses, and what national initiatives are on the horizon]]>
Pharmacist filling a pill bottle.

Over the last decade, the number of prescription drug overdose deaths has quadrupled.

Every 25 minutes, someone loses their life to a prescription drug overdose; and in 2012, drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury death among 25-to-64 year olds. Americans abuse prescription drugs more than cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens combined, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and with overdose-related deaths continuing to soar upward in recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is attempting to put a stronger emphasis on treating the root of the problem.

In an effort to assist pharmacists as the last line of defense in curbing the epidemic, the CDC plans to improve data quality and surveillance to monitor and respond to the epidemic, strengthen state efforts by scaling up effective public health interventions, and supply health care providers with the data, tools and guidance needed to improve the safety of their patients. To do this, the CDC is requesting an increase of $54 million in 2016 to fund prescription drug overdose and heroin prevention efforts to all 50 states. We sat down with Bree Watzak, Pharm.D., BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and a practicing pharmacist in College Station, Texas, to find out more about prescription overdose and the CDC’s latest initiative.

Q: What programs are currently in place for prescription drug overdose monitoring?

A: There is a prescription drug-monitoring program in Texas, but it only applies to this state and is optional for providers to utilize this tool. For example, if I need to see whether a patient picked up a prescription in Louisiana, I would have to get authorization to check Louisiana’s database, which is obviously burdensome for pharmacists and physicians alike. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has been working to link all 50 states so that pharmacists in Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma don’t have to check three separate databases. A database spanning the entire country will help health care providers reduce inappropriate prescribing by allowing physicians to weed out those patients who may have addiction problems, seeking drugs for which there is no legitimate medical need. Ultimately, this would reduce the number of inappropriate prescriptions and diminish the overall risk of overdose. The CDC is hoping to establish – and link – drug-monitoring programs in all 50 states.

Q: What is currently being done to help those who are addicted?

A: This is an area that needs further development. Given the structure of the health care system, it is very difficult for prescribers and pharmacists to screen patients for potential drug abuse. This is due to the high volume of patients seen everyday, oftentimes in settings that don’t afford much privacy.

As educators, we train future physicians and pharmacists to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction, but it is often difficult to put into practice. Each hospital and pharmacy has its own guidelines for screening patients, but the CDC is establishing new and more uniform standards. Having well-established guidelines will help pharmacists and prescribers recognize and stop abuse more often.

Q: What will the CDC initiative ultimately do?

A: Some strategies recommended by the CDC are implementation of innovative insurance programs, state-run databases that track prescriptions to determine any over-prescribing problems and public health outreach programs aimed at educating physicians, pharmacists and the public about prescription overdose.

Part of the CDC’s initiative is to encourage insurance companies to provide payment for addiction treatments. Currently, most insurance policies don’t cover the cost for recovery, causing people to pay for treatments out-of-pocket and take time off from work. However, many employers do not allow time off for such instances, causing some to lose their jobs while getting treated. It’s a terrible cycle, which the CDC is hoping to end by implementing innovative insurance.

Additionally, expanding the prescription drug-monitoring program to all 50 states will allow pharmacists to track potential high-risk patients. Currently, 49 states and Washington, D.C., each have monitoring programs; however, each monitoring program is independent of those in other states. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is trying to create a comprehensive monitoring program that will make it easier for pharmacists to monitor potential abusers across state boundaries, decreasing the chance for abuse.

Educating the public is a critical step as nearly 110 Americans die every day from drug-related overdoses, and about half of those overdoses are related to opioids. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of people who misuse prescription painkillers for the first time report obtaining the drugs from friends or relatives, including from the home medicine cabinet; these incidences can be somewhat minimized through public education and awareness. The CDC is in the process of developing public health programs and campaigns to spread awareness.

Q: Will these initiatives and policies make it more difficult for patients to obtain prescriptions?

A: Physicians and pharmacists are trying to preserve opioids for people who have legitimate pain and not let them get into the hands of people who are abusing them. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), responding to the 2012 Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, reclassified hydrocodone combination medications in October from Schedule III to Schedule II.  Schedule III drugs are defined as drugs with moderate to low potential for abuse, whereas Schedule II drugs are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse. The goal is that people who legitimately need medications for pain still receive it, but those who were simply abusing the opioids will find them more difficult to obtain.

A: Are pharmacy students being taught methods to alleviate prescription drug overdoses?

A: Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy has multiple avenues for preparing students to combat prescription drug abuse that leads to overdoses. One example is an elective rotation in substance abuse at the South Texas Substance Abuse Recovery Services in Corpus Christi. Students who take this course gain an appreciation of the disease model of drug addiction. This six-week rotation gives students a glimpse of the other side of drug addiction: the illicit use of both prescription and street drugs.

There are many opportunities for Texas A&M pharmacy students to learn the signs of potential addicts or distributors of prescription drugs, and what to do should they suspect a patient is abusing prescriptions, but this training is not mandatory to receive their pharmacology license. Part of the CDC’s initiative will certainly involve more training and screening guidelines for both pharmacists and prescribers.

Watzak teaches drug addiction courses and takes Texas A&M pharmacy students to a week-long program on alcoholism and other drug dependencies at the University of Utah School of Medicine each summer.

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Community pharmacists molding next generation of health care leaders Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:24:58 +0000 More than 1,000 pharmacists across the state serve as preceptors for the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. These preceptors play a valuable role in giving students real-world experience. One pharmacist in Kingsville has served as a preceptor since the college opened its doors in 2006. ]]>

Some of the most important skills are learned outside the classroom.

That’s why real-world professionals known as pharmacy preceptors play such a vital role in the education of future pharmacists.

More than 1,000 pharmacists across the state have served as preceptors for the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. Preceptors are licensed pharmacists who have at least a year of experience or six months of American Society of Health-System Pharmacists residency training. Every couple of years the participating pharmacists take preceptor training. They are affiliated with the college and help students gain valuable experience in a pharmacy intern setting by serving as teachers, advocates and observers. They work side-by-side with the students teaching as they practice all aspects and functions of the pharmacy profession.

Pharmacist Buddy Jones prepares medication for patients

Buddy Jones, a pharmacist at the Walgreens in Kingsville, Texas, has served as a preceptor since the college opened in 2006.

Buddy Jones, a pharmacist at the Walgreens in Kingsville, Texas, is one such preceptor. Jones has served as a preceptor since the college opened in 2006.

“Mr. Jones really took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of the pharmacy world,” said Lauren DeLoach, a fourth-year professional student pharmacist from Port Isabel, Texas. DeLoach has worked with Jones at Walgreens for more than six years, first as a pharmacy technician and then as an intern in pharmacy college.

“His relationship with his patients has set a great example of what I hope to build with my patients in my practice one day,” DeLoach said. “Not only has he taught me countless tricks of the trade, he shared with me the joys of being a valuable member of the community.”

Jones began working in a pharmacy at the age of 12. His work as a young boy carried over to his college years when he was studying to become a pharmacist. Jones completed his prerequisites for pharmacy school at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, and then earned his degree in pharmacy from the University of Texas.

After finishing his pharmacy studies, Jones moved back to Kingsville. His work experience has included hospital relief work, consulting with nursing homes, and co-owning a pharmacy in downtown Kingsville. Throughout his career, Jones has enjoyed serving others through a community pharmacy.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am today without him as a constant reminder of what I hope to one day become: an accessible, trustworthy neighborhood pharmacist and valued member of the community,” DeLoach said.

Jones trains students to serve their communities by stressing important characteristics of a pharmacist.

“Customer service is one of the most important things to know when becoming a pharmacist,” Jones said. “As someone who works closely with a community, dealing with customers and being able to speak to them on a personal level is a great quality. The student pharmacists must know what is going on behind the counter of the pharmacy at all times and how their work is affecting the people that they serve.”

Jones spends more than 100 hours with students in their second year of pharmacy school and has fourth-year students for six weeks at a time during their advanced clinical rotations. By the time students complete their training, Jones has exposed them to what it is like to work in a community pharmacy and ensures that they are comfortable with the environment.

“Mr. Jones is a great person and a fantastic pharmacist to learn from,” said Seth B. Lomax, who is a third-year professional student pharmacist. “From counseling patients to managing interactions, he is always very helpful. I hope I will be as patient, friendly and knowledgeable of a pharmacist as Mr. Jones.”

In addition to teaching students how to interact with patients, Jones teaches them things that are important to keep up with behind the scene, such as regulating temperatures on refrigerators, keeping up with inventory and keeping an environment friendly and clean.

“These little things might not seem like a big deal, but they are absolutely necessary in making sure that a pharmacy runs smoothly,” Jones said. “This is important when knowing that each pharmacist is entrusted with more than a quarter of a million dollars of inventory.”

And although training and knowledge of the pharmacy setting is important in preparing a student for their chosen career, personality traits are also important.

“Eye contact, clear language and understanding needs are what every pharmacist needs to know and what I try to educate students about,” Jones said.

Jones believes that one of the keys to pharmacists being such trusted professionals is creating an environment where customers feel safe.

“What I have learned most from Mr. Jones is the importance of having a familiar face, someone patients feel comfortable with and can trust, in a pharmacy,” said Eric Wright, a second-year professional student pharmacist.

Jones said the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy provides professional student pharmacists with outstanding knowledge, training and skills.

“The students I work with are well-prepared and knowledgeable, which are some of the traits that I truly enjoy,” he said. “The retention rate of the college and the passing rate on the state exams they take upon graduation are exceptionally high, which positively reflects on the school. I enjoy being able to work with the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and the students who receive their education there.”

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Texas A&M pharmacy student receives Mayo Clinic summer internship Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:00:55 +0000 Sasha Cruz is one of four students nationwide who have been selected to work in the Mayo Clinic's network of outpatient pharmacies this summer. ]]>

Students have many opportunities to explore various career options in pharmacy while pursuing their education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. Sasha Cruz, who is a second-year professional student pharmacist, applied for an internship with the Mayo Clinic, which is ranked No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report’s listing of best hospitals for 2014-2015.

“The chances were slim,” Cruz said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it. But I thought I have nothing to lose and so much to gain, so why not?”

Cruz interviewed for the Mayo School of Health Sciences Pharmacy Internship in early February and by the following day she had an offer. It was the chance of a lifetime.

“When I got the call, I think the first words that came out of my mouth were: ‘Are you serious?’” Cruz said. “The intern recruiter I spoke with laughed and said she would not be calling unless she was 100 percent serious.”

Sasha Cruz receives summer internship

Sasha Cruz was selected as one of four students nationwide to work in the Mayo Clinic’s outpatient pharmacy program.

Cruz, who is from San Antonio, will be spending 10 weeks this summer in Rochester, Minn. She was selected as one of four students nationwide to work in the clinic’s outpatient pharmacy program.

“I look forward to experiencing the Mayo Clinic’s six outpatient pharmacies where interns rotate,” she said.

In its network of outpatient pharmacies, the Mayo Clinic sees approximately 1.4 million patients each year, and dispenses nearly 3,500 prescriptions per day.

“It is an overwhelming amount,” Cruz said. “In two of their outpatient pharmacies there are no medications – just pharmacists interacting with patients.”

In these pharmacies, time is devoted to patients for counseling and asking questions. While the patient receives one-on-one time with pharmacists, their prescription is shipped through a tubing system where a central area fills the script.

“One of the biggest mottos at the Mayo Clinic is that the needs of the patient come first,” Cruz said.

Cruz has a passion for patient care and has a heart for educating patients on the use of their medications. She received first place in the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Patient Counseling Competition Feb. 2 at Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and will participate in the National Patient Counseling Competition in March at the 2015 APhA Annual Conference in San Diego, Calif.

“I will have plenty of practice with patient interaction and counseling by the end of the summer,” she said. “One emphasis of the program is polishing counseling skills, but I also expect to interact with other health care professionals, including pharmacists, doctors and nurses.”

As a student at Texas A&M, Cruz found her niche in outpatient care during her summer internship with Juan Castro, M.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice. In the internship at his medical practice in Corpus Christi, Texas, she evaluated patients based on medical history, examinations and current medications.

“Her rapport with patients was exceptional,” Dr. Castro said. “Her humility and confidence allowed her to communicate with patients in a way that put them at ease. Patients confided in her with information that they had not revealed to me or my staff.”

The outpatient care setting exposed Cruz to what she believes is the best of pharmacy patient care.

“The retail pharmacy setting offers direct patient interaction but it can be limited at times, and the hospital setting offers a more clinical view of the patient,” she said. “With outpatient care I had the best of both worlds, I could sit down with patients, look at their lab values, discuss their care and learn more about them.”

In outpatient care, where patients are not hospitalized for care, Cruz said she could be a cheerleader for the patient and observe care holistically. “I can look at their medications and see what adjustments need to be made while taking into account other physical or social factors that might affect patient care,” she said.

She learned that pharmacists can play a big role in chronic diseases. In her summer internship at Dr. Castro’s office, she introduced a diabetes standards of care form that was implemented for his patients who had diabetes.

“She instructed our staff of the need for such a form,” Dr. Castro said. “She shared with us the objectives and the expected outcomes.”

Cruz noticed that patients who have chronic diseases such as diabetes require more motivation to manage their disease.

“Patients have already been told to exercise more or eat healthier,” she said. “But these are not things they can easily do on their own. They really need that cheerleader, and I feel that the outpatient care setting gives you the opportunity to be that for patients.”

As an intern at the Mayo Clinic, she will experience specialized pharmacy practice areas including critical care, cardiac surgery, cardiology, anti-coagulation, and many others. During the summer she will perform mini rotations shadowing various pharmacy specialties. At the end of the internship she will share a presentation with the staff and receive feedback from peers on how to improve her skills.

“More than anything, I am so excited and just grateful, I think it is going to be an amazing experience,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to learn and interact with patients and find ways to improve patient care – that is the No. 1 thing to me. Mayo Clinic stands for that. I still wake up sometimes thinking: ‘Did they really pick me? Am I dreaming?’”

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Texas A&M pharmacy students receive national award for patient counseling program Mon, 09 Feb 2015 22:15:49 +0000 Texas A&M pharmacy students were recognized for their medication discharge counseling program at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – Memorial in Corpus Christi, Texas. Students teach patients the appropriate administration of Lovenox, which is used to prevent blood clots, proper use of nebulizers to help with breathing problems, and optimizing medication reconciliation. ]]>

When she started pharmacy college, Sasha Cruz had no idea how involved pharmacists could be with patient care.

That all changed in her first year when Cruz of San Antonio took advantage of a service-learning opportunity at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi – Memorial in Corpus Christi, Texas.

During her second year at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, Cruz participated in a medication discharge counseling program. The program was developed in 2009 by CHRISTUS Spohn. Texas A&M student interns, residents and pharmacists along with the college’s chapter of the Student Society of Health-System Pharmacy (SSHP) expanded the program with CHRISTUS Spohn pharmacists in 2012 to include weekend coverage.

Brady McNulty, Pharm.D., Class of 2014, was the 2012 SSHP chapter president when he was an intern at CHRISTUS Spohn where he was instrumental in developing a weekend rotation schedule for pharmacy students to volunteer.

“I pursued creating the program to give pharmacy students invaluable experience inside an actual hospital pharmacy setting,” McNulty said. “Most volunteer programs in pharmacy school prior to that involved community pharmacies or large public events. This event allowed students a chance to see hospital practice firsthand and decide for themselves if it was something they would consider for post-graduation employment.”

McNulty, who is from Corpus Christi, is in his first-year residency at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore. The expansion gave professional student pharmacists the opportunity to develop communication and counseling skills while developing clinical skills through experiential education.

Students from the college’s SSHP chapter extended the program in a valuable way by providing weekend coverage at the Level II Trauma Center at CHRISTUS Spohn. Students helped teach patients the appropriate administration of Lovenox, which is used to prevent blood clots, proper use of nebulizers to help with breathing problems, and optimizing medication reconciliation.

“The pharmacy students have been invaluable in administering this program,” said Christopher W. Miller, Pharm.D., BCPP, CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi- Memorial’s director of primary care and pharmacy services.

The program gives students opportunities to engage in patient counseling, perform medication reconciliation, provide medication therapy management (MTM), and prescription verification. The program has become one of the most popular service-learning opportunities available to students at the college.

“We would counsel on the floor and on the phone as follow-up for missed patients,” said Katie Kidd, fourth-year professional student pharmacist who served on the SSHP Medication Safety Committee. “We conducted a risk assessment built by a CHRISTUS Spohn intern and categorize patients into high, medium and low. We focused on high-risk patients,” Kidd said.

Students expressed that learning these skills in the first year has changed the trajectory of their study.

“I credit this service-learning opportunity as one of the catalysts in motivating me to pursue a career in clinical pharmacy,” Cruz said. “What I enjoyed most was being able to interact on a more personal level with patients during rounds with the residents and pharmacy staff. I would really encourage all pharmacy students to participate and see all the great ways pharmacists can be involved in patient care.”

Justin Shanks, a third-year professional student pharmacist and president of the SSHP chapter, said discharge counseling was a premier service-learning opportunity.

“I’m often surprised in discussion with pharmacists from across Texas and the nation that many other hospitals and health systems are just getting a program like this off the ground,” Shanks said. “I have found that it is a great conversation piece to discuss during informal and formal interview sessions that I can draw upon to illustrate my clinical experiences and involvement in current initiatives of health-systems pharmacy.”

Students interested in hospital pharmacy appreciated the focus on clinical application. However, Kidd never dreamed it would garner national recognition.

In December 2014, the project received the Outstanding Professional Development Project Award at the Midyear Clinical Meeting of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

“Being recognized nationally for this professional development service project reinforces what Texas Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists has said and serves as added recognition for our chapter’s hard work and dedication,” Shanks said.

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Texas A&M researcher receives FDA grant to develop test to bring generic eye medications to market Thu, 05 Feb 2015 21:17:41 +0000 Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy researcher receives a grant from the FDA to develop a test method for finding therapeutic equivalency of topical eye medications. The test method will show whether the medication is equally effective in both the brand and generic formulations. It will also reduce the amount of time and money required for a generic medication to reach the pharmacy shelf]]>

The cost of some medications can be staggering, especially if these medications are only available as brand-name drugs. One reason brand-name drugs cost so much to develop, as much as $2.6 billion, is that it can take about 14 years to develop them, ensuring drug safety and efficacy through rigorous regulatory approval processes.

Brand-name products may be reproduced as generics once the 20-year patent protection expires, allowing for greater access to medications at lower costs.

To ensure that generic drugs are therapeutically equivalent to brand-name drugs with similar characteristics and clinical effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has testing methods and application processes for drug companies.

Dr. Palakurthi researchers ways to test eye medications.

The FDA recently awarded Srinath Palakurthi, Ph.D., a $250,000 grant to support the development of a test method for finding therapeutic equivalency of topical eye medications.

The FDA recently awarded Srinath Palakurthi, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and director of graduate studies at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, a $250,000 grant to support the development of a test method for finding therapeutic equivalency of topical eye medications. Currently, there are tests for tablets and capsules, but not for topical eye medications.

The test method will show whether the medication is equally effective in both the brand and generic formulations. More importantly, it will help reduce the amount of time and money required to bring a generic product to the market.

“Currently there is a lack of predictive assays for drug release for topical ophthalmic emulsions and suspensions,” Palakurthi said. “It is critical to develop an appropriate drug release method that can help compare and contrast eye products and also predict the drug release in the eye. Such a quality control test would guide the product development process and accelerate the product approval of ophthalmic formulations.”

The grant was awarded through the Center for Drug Evaluation Research, which ensures that safe and effective drugs are available to improve the health of people in the United States. The center regulates over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including biological therapeutics and generic drugs.

Palakurthi plans to develop the new test method in the coming year. This test method will pave the way for future topical ophthalmic products in generic forms to be validated for patients who need the medications. Palakurthi’s goal is to create a test method specifically for eye products that have expired patents and are ready for the generic formulations.

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Texas A&M College of Pharmacy joins forces with Lichtenstein Foundation to stop diabetes in its tracks Tue, 23 Dec 2014 17:16:55 +0000 The Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy is collaborating with the Morris L. Lichtenstein Jr. Medical Research Foundation and Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi to combat diabetes. Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, will spearhead the project, which seeks to predict the early onset of diabetes and could make a noticeable difference in preventive treatment protocols for the disease]]>
  • 29.1 million children and adults in the U.S. – 9.3 percent of the population – have diabetes. (American Diabetes Association)
  • In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetes; up from 79 million in 2010. (American Diabetes Association)
  • One in eight adult Texans – roughly 2 million people – have been diagnosed with diabetes; another half million are believed to be undiagnosed. (Texas Health Institute)
  • The prevalence of adult diabetes is more than 20 percent higher in South Texas than the entire state of Texas. (Texas Health Institute)

KINGSVILLE, Texas — In an effort to stop diabetes before it starts, the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy is collaborating with the Morris L. Lichtenstein Jr. Medical Research Foundation and Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi. Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, will spearhead the project, which seeks to predict the early onset of diabetes and could make a noticeable difference in preventive treatment protocols for the disease.

“Management of diabetes represents an enormous challenge for health care systems,” Choudhury said. “The increased number of diabetic cases, the lack of access to screening, and the expense of appropriate therapy argue strongly for a greater focus on preventive strategies. Therefore, we are committed to find novel, early biomarkers to facilitate the development of such interventions.”

With nearly half a million dollars in support, Choudhury will lead a diabetes epigenetic study in children and their mothers with Mauricio Flores, M.D., of the Children’s Diabetes & Endocrine Center at Driscoll Children’s Hospital.

“Epigenetic changes are not changes to a gene sequence, but a modification to a gene,” Choudhury said. “If detected early enough, these modifications can potentially be reversed through proper diet and nutrition. This proactive approach will prevent diabetes before the clinical symptoms arise.”

The team will focus efforts on individuals with prediabetes, those who have high blood glucose or hemoglobin A1C levels but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes associated blindness but not everyone with prediabetes will progress to diabetes.

“We want to stop diabetes before any clinical symptoms even arise,” said Sunitha Meruvu, Ph.D, research scientists at Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. “To do that, we need to find an indicator that can tell us the disease risk ahead of time.” Meruvu, who will coordinate the project, joins Choudhury with a decade of experience in diabetes mostly garnered at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

After collecting samples, the research team plans to find ways for physicians to develop an intervention protocol to prevent diabetes in children. Additional funding is warranted to analyze the samples.

“Our Foundation trustees are excited by the opportunity to work with this talented young scientist exploring new frontiers in the search for solutions for the terrible burden diabetes imposes on the South Texas community,” said Charles W. Thomasson, president of the Lichtenstein Foundation.

With the consistent rise in numbers that the South Texas community has seen, this research is coming at the right time, and in the right area. The findings will lead to greater insight into preventing the disease and improving the health of thousands of South Texans and beyond.

“This type of research can be the answer to how to stop diabetes before it develops, and will help concentrate prevention efforts on children who are at a high risk for the disease,” said Melissa Wilson, M.D., medical director of the foundation.

Also participating in the project from the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy are Jian Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor Joan Everett-Houser, P.A., Pharm.D., several professional student pharmacists, and Laurie Cazalas, R.N., research assistant with the Lichtenstein Foundation.

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ACPE names pharmacy dean chair-elect for international commission Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:47:39 +0000 The Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy dean was elected to serve as chair-elect for International Commission for the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. In this role, he serves with site evaluation teams to improve and certify programs at colleges of pharmacy around the world and will represent the International Commission as chair beginning in February ]]>
Dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy

Indra K. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and founding dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy

Indra K. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and founding dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, was named vice chair/chair-elect of the International Commission for the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) from Feb. 1, 2015, to Jan. 31, 2016.

Since 2013, Reddy has served as an international commissioner through the International Service Program, which extends through 2016. In this role, he serves with site evaluation teams to improve and certify programs at colleges of pharmacy around the world. Beginning in February 2016, Reddy will represent the International Commission as chair during ACPE board of directors’ meetings.

“I bring my experiences as founding dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy to the floor to help advance the mission of ACPE’s International Services Program, to enhance the quality of pharmacy education, training and practice in global settings,” Reddy said. “I am delighted to serve as International Commissioner as it presents a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the advancement of pharmacy education and training and to the provision of optimal patient care.”

As commissioners, the team witnesses and participates in, firsthand, the quality enhancement of pharmacy education and practices throughout the world.

In June, ACPE granted pharmacy degree program certification to programs in India, Cyprus, and Saudi Arabia. Recently certified programs include, Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara University Colleges of Pharmacy in India, Near East University Faculty of Pharmacy in Northern Cyprus, and King Faisal University College of Clinical Pharmacy in Saudi Arabia.

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