UM Receives ‘Million Hearts’ Grant, Student Pharmacists Work to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

OXFORD, Miss. – In a state that has the nation’s highest mortality rate from cardiovascular disease, or CVD, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is doing its part to assist with prevention by conducting community health fairs in key areas across the state.

The health fairs, which will take place during September, will be hosted through the combined outreach of student pharmacists and faculty members. They will feature student pharmacist-led blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings, blood glucose screenings, medication reviews and a health risk assessment on each patient. Community pharmacies in Batesville, Clarksdale, Hernando, Jackson, Vicksburg and Yazoo City will hold the fairs. Specific dates and times are to be announced.

“With so many of our citizens impacted by CVD, it is imperative that we empower patients to make decisions that will prevent heart attacks, strokes or death from CVD,” said Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice. “Many of the risk factors that lead to CVD can be prevented or controlled, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and obesity, and pharmacists can play an important role in this prevention effort.”The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation recently awarded a Million Hearts Team Up, Pressure Down public education grant of $5,000 to the school to support the health fairs. The Million Hearts Initiative is a national campaign to prevent heart disease. The school was chosen among only 15 from a group of nearly 70 applicants.

“The School of Pharmacy is committed to improving the health of Mississippians,” Ross said. “Our existing project, which is part of the Million Hearts Campaign, is focused on improving patient outcomes related to diabetes and CVD, specifically addressing the ‘ABCS’ of heart attack and stroke prevention (appropriate aspirin use, blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking cessation). We believe this grant provides an opportunity to identify additional patients at risk for CVD in these targeted communities who might benefit from pharmacy medication therapy management services.”

Laura Luther, a fourth-professional year student in the School of Pharmacy, is helping to coordinate the screenings. She will be participating through blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose screenings, along with patient counseling.

“As a student pharmacist, I hope to be able to meet the needs of Mississippi’s underserved population,” Luther said. “Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Mississippi, and as a result, is worthy of increased prevention efforts. This is a unique opportunity to provide education as well as clinical services to Mississippians who have limited access to care, and I am excited to be a part of a project that will help improve the health of individuals across the state.”

The Million Hearts Initiative aims to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years by raising public awareness about appropriate aspirin use, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation.

For more information on health fairs, contact Ross at 601-984-2481 or Lauren Bloodworth, coordinator for student services and student professional development for the School of Pharmacy, at 601-984-2486. For more information on programs in the UM School of Pharmacy, go to