Pharmacy Students to Compete In National Clinical Skills Competition

Duo represents Ole Miss at ASHP midyear clinical meeting in Las Vegas

University of Mississippi pharmacy students Eugene Lukienko and Nina Dang will compete in the 2012 ASHP National Clinical Skills Competition. Photo courtesy of Eugene Lukienko.

OXFORD, Miss. – Two students from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy are scheduled to compete in a national clinical skills competition.

“This is a great opportunity to use all the theoretical knowledge we gained from years of pharmacy education and apply it to patient cases,” said Eugene Lukienko, who is enrolled in the fourth year of UM’s professional pharmacy program. “It will give us the chance to represent our school and to show our competitiveness to other teams. I believe with enthusiasm, initiative and a great clinical skills experience, anything is possible.”

Lukienko and Nina Dang, also a fourth year professional student, will represent the pharmacy school at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting in Las Vegas. They are advancing to the 2012 ASHP National Clinical Skills Competition on Saturday (Dec. 1) after winning first place in UM’s local competition in October.
“It was hard to believe that we won first place in the competition at Ole Miss,” Dang said. “It was a very exciting moment when I got the call from Eugene. I didn’t expect it because all of our competitors were so talented.”

The Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists, or MSHP, sponsors the local competition, providing all of the winning team’s travel expenses. ASHP waives registration fees for the winning team.

Katie McClendon, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, said that with 15 student teams participating, it was the largest local competition since she began her role as ASHP chapter adviser six years ago.

“The way the competition works is that the students are in teams of two, and they’re given a patient case to evaluate,” she said. “They have two hours to make clinical recommendations of how to optimize the patient’s medications, determine what kind of monitoring they would do and what medications they would start or stop.”

Within the two hours, students must read through their case, determine the disease state, rank the patient’s medical problems, develop a treatment plan and handwrite their plan for the judges. Travis King, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and former clinical skills competitor, says that this is a high-pressure situation for competitors. King, who placed in the top 10 in the 2009 national competition, is serving as coach for Dang and Lukienko before the midyear meeting.

“Time management is the most difficult aspect of the competition,” he said. “You have two teammates who both want to work on all the disease states and make sure that they’re working together, but sometimes you have to fractionate those job responsibilities. Knowing how to go about doing that and getting it done within two hours is really tough, in my opinion.”

The patient cases also can be very challenging, King said.

“The cases could be anything,” he said. “For example, our year was a patient who presented to the clinic with an acute onset shortness of breath – basically a heart failure exacerbation. It’s really up to the students to pick up on the nuances of the case and figure out the issues needing to be addressed without being spoon-fed the disease state specifics.”

Competing nationally will benefit the students in a number of ways, McClendon said.

“It’s one of those things that you can put on your CV and be proud of,” she said. “If you do well, it can help you get noticed at various residencies. It’s also a great experience working as part of a team. We always encourage our students to work together because it’s so important in the pharmacy profession today.”

Dang and Lukienko are looking forward to the midyear meeting.

“I always try to participate in as many competitions as I can because I gain so much from them,” Dang said. “They are always a learning experience. I’ll be happy if we win or lose because I’ll know that we did our best and had a great experience.”