Pharmacy students serve veterans through VALOR

Students pursuing a doctor of pharmacy degree have an opportunity each summer to give back to the nation’s veterans through the Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) program.

Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy students have filled half of the summer positions for the past two years to serve a unique population of veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston.

The VALOR program is designed to attract academically successful students of doctor of pharmacy programs to work at a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) facility as registered pharmacists. This program gives outstanding students the opportunity to develop competencies in clinical pharmacy while at an approved VA health care facility.

“Our pharmacy VALOR students have the opportunity to work with our outpatient, inpatient and clinical pharmacy services,” said Richard M. Cadle, Pharm.D., BCPS (AQ ID), FASHP, clinical pharmacy manager at the Houston facility. “They learn the responsibilities and duties of a Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs pharmacist. This allows them to gain more experience and expertise as a future pharmacist. Pharmacy VALOR program is designed to increase participant’s clinical skills, clinical judgment and critical thinking while caring for our nation’s veterans.”

Arlis Hamann Jr. of San Antonio and Courtney J. Landry of Richmond, Texas, both graduated in May as part of the Class of 2013, were selected for the VALOR program in 2012.

“I want to serve our nations veteran’s and their families that have made sacrifices and indirectly served me,” Hamann said.  “The VALOR program provided me with an opportunity to continue serving our nations veteran’s while providing me with an exceptional educational experience.”

The program gives each student a unique set of skills to reach the needs of the community.

Landry said the VALOR program was a tremendous learning experience.

“During the past year, I worked with pharmacists in inpatient and outpatient pharmacy settings, research pharmacy, internal medicine, ambulatory care, infectious disease and HIV clinic, mental health, and home-based primary care,” she said.

Through the VALOR program, Landry found that she wanted to continue to serve this population through clinical pharmacy, and applied for residency. She will begin her first-year post-graduate pharmacy practice residency this summer at Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston.

Madeline A. King of La Porte, Texas, and Mila Moroz of Houston, both professional third-year student pharmacists at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, were selected to fill two of four slots for the VALOR program this summer. This opportunity puts them in the middle of the action where they plan to start their careers after graduation.

“One-to-one preceptor relationships help students build confidence in their pharmacy skills, and VALOR students have a unique opportunity to connect with the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Health Care System to assess the feasibility of employment after graduation,” Cadle said.

King plans to work in public health and ambulatory care.

“I feel like working for the VA is the ideal setting for me,” she said. “I know the VA has very advanced health care models and I hope to learn a lot as a VALOR intern.”

King’s favorite part of pharmacy is the interaction with patients and with other health care providers. She looks forward to being part of a team where she can facilitate the exchange of information to physicians to optimize patient care.

“I have always heard great things about the VA from the people who work there, whether they are doctors, pharmacists or lab technicians,” Moroz said.

At Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, students learn about pharmacists working as part of the inter-professional health care team, and the VA puts that model into practice each day.

“I am overjoyed that Madeline and I were chosen for the program this year when only four slots were available, and the fact that this is the second year in a row is great. It shows that the VA pharmacists see that we are given a great educational background at Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy,” Moroz said. “I am excited to be a part of a health care team that makes a big difference in so many lives. I am glad that I will now be able to serve those who have served our country and their families.”

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