National Pharmacy Association Honors UM Professor

Ashley W. Ellis to accept NCPA Adherence Educator Award in October

Ashley Ellis (left) teaches pharmacy students about asthma medication in the skills laboratory.

OXFORD Miss. – Ashley W. Ellis, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been chosen by the National Community Pharmacists Association to receive its 2013 Adherence Educator Award.

“I was very excited to hear that I had received this award,” Ellis said. “There are so many extraordinary pharmacists who are making great strides in the area of adherence, so I feel honored to have been selected.”

Medication adherence, or taking medicine as directed by a health care professional, is a high priority for pharmacists.

“Adherence is of critical importance to our patients because in the case of chronic conditions, medications are often prescribed to prevent long-term consequences like heart attacks, strokes, amputations or kidney damage,” Ellis said. “Taking medications as prescribed can help patients avoid hospitalizations and costly treatments for these consequences.”

The health care costs of medication nonadherence can run into billions of dollars.

“Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to make an impact on decreasing these costs to the health care system and individual patients because they often are the health care professionals that detect nonadherence problems,” she said. ”They can also then make individualized interventions to help overcome the problems. These interventions could range from reminder texts and cell phone alarms to compliance packaging or pill boxes.”

Ellis has been involved in numerous projects that have affected adherence in Mississippi through the pharmacy school’s Community-Based Research Program. Some of these include free health fairs and hypertension programs associated with the Million Hearts Initiative, a Script Your Future campaign partnership and the school’s Delta Project, which demonstrated how pharmacists are able to influence the health of residents in the Mississippi Delta.

Ellis also has developed engaging classroom activities to educate budding pharmacists about adherence.

“Our most recent project included a case about asthma co-written by each of the PY2 (second professional year) course directors,” she said. “Students learned different aspects of the case in their problem-based learning, skills lab, law, pharmacology and medicinal chemistry courses.

“The patient in the case had several adherence problems with her inhalers, and the students worked in groups to create a care plan to address her nonadherence. I think this was a great collaboration in helping reinforce not only the clinical knowledge but also the individualized recommendations that must be made as a pharmacist.”

To further enhance adherence education at Ole Miss, Ellis has worked with architects to design a new skills laboratory that will help students learn through simulation, patient scenarios and hands-on instruction.

Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, nominated Ellis for the award.

“We are thrilled that Ashley has been selected for this honor,” Ross said. “She has demonstrated substantial contributions to improving adherence in all areas of her work – from teaching to service to research – and has incorporated learners at all levels in these activities.”

Ellis plans to continue coordinating adherence events in her community and practice site at Funderburk’s Pharmacy in Hernando. However, she said, teaching adherence to pharmacy students is just as important as community outreach.

“I think I can have the most impact by helping teach, coach and mentor our students and residents to see that medication adherence interventions are vital to their philosophy of practice,” she said. ”If I can impact the students in the classroom to make this a priority, the patients that they impact in their future practice will experience exponentially better health outcomes and quality of care. I find this aspect of my position at the School of Pharmacy richly rewarding.”

The association, known as NCPA, will present the award to Ellis Oct. 13 at its annual convention. As part of the award, NCPA will donate $1,000 to the pharmacy school of her choice. Ellis has designated the donation to her school’s Faser Capital Campaign, which is raising funds to help renovate the skills laboratory.

“I would love to encourage others to donate to this project as well because this space will allow us instructors to provide simulations and scenarios in which students can learn and practice their skills in providing adherence interventions,” she said.

To donate to the Faser Capital Campaign, contact Raina McClure, the School of Pharmacy’s development officer, at rmcclure@olemiss.edu or 662-915-6967. For more information on NCPA, visit http://www.ncpanet.org/.