UM School of Pharmacy Honored for Transformative Community Service

OXFORD, Miss. – For its life-changing work in 12 Delta communities, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has won the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s 2011-12 Lawrence C. Weaver Transformative Community Service Award.

AACP presents the award annually to one pharmacy school that not only demonstrates a major commitment to addressing unmet community needs through education, practice and research but also serves as an example of social responsiveness for others.

AACP’s selection committee was impressed by the school’s many community-based initiatives that are providing innovative pharmacy, disease education and other services in 11 counties of the impoverished region.

The initiatives have “gone beyond the traditional academic role of service,” said an AACP release announcing this year’s award recipient.

            “Our institution has long been committed to service,” said UM Chancellor Daniel W. Jones. “Our School of Pharmacy faculty, staff and students share this commitment, and their work is making a tremendous difference in the health and lives of our fellow citizens.

“Their partnerships with community pharmacists, physicians, community health centers, employers and others are quickly becoming a model for increasing access to health care and overcoming our nation’s ethnic, economic and geographic health care disparities.”

Through the Delta project, pharmacy school personnel are providing general and disease-specific medication therapy management, or MTM, services to many of the region’s patients and are training local pharmacists to do the same. In addition, they are providing disease education classes in targeted communities and, in Greenwood, are piloting an employer-based diabetes program.

“We have a truly extraordinary team working on these projects, led by Lauren Bloodworth, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and program administrator,” said Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs and chair of pharmacy practice. “Our faculty and community partners are committed to helping others, and this award is a reflection of their hard work over the past few years.”

“This award is based on an institutional commitment to transformative service, and we certainly would not be the recipient without the vision and support provided by Chancellor Jones, Provost (Morris) Stocks, Dean (Barbara) Wells and other university administrators,” Ross said. “Dean Wells provides outstanding leadership and models service every day. Her example inspires us to go that extra mile with our community efforts.”

The award consists of a commemorative Steuben glass Beacon of Light and a $5,000 honorarium, which the school plans to use to support pharmacy services as an integral part of the care, health information and other patient support systems at the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center’s Canton location. The services will mirror those established more than a year ago at G.A. Carmichael’s Yazoo City location, where the school embedded a clinical pharmacist to work with patients and care providers in the delivery of MTM and diabetes education.

During the selection process, which included a site visit, the committee looked for programs that emphasize research, involve community participation and train student pharmacists, residents and other postgraduates. They found what they were looking for associated with the multifaceted pharmacy school projects in the Mississippi Delta.

The Work

Obesity, diabetes and its complications are more prevalent and cause more deaths in Delta communities such as Charleston, Greenwood, Greenville, Indianola, Yazoo City and others than anywhere else in the nation. In Greenwood, the pharmacy school implemented a childhood obesity prevention program in Bankston Elementary School over the past year and is addressing diabetes through a workforce initiative at the Viking Range Corp.

“With these programs, the school is empowering our existing and future workforces to make healthy decisions,” said Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams.

At Viking, employees who have diabetes or are at risk for developing it receive pharmacist-delivered health screenings, MTM services, and individual and group education sessions.

“Our employees welcomed this program and provide positive feedback on their successes with it,” said Bill Crump, Viking’s director of governmental affairs. “We appreciate the school’s service and research approach, which will allow us to evaluate the program’s impact on our employees’ health and productivity.”

Pharmacy faculty and residents also have been active in other communities, such as Charleston, where Southern Discount Drugs owner and Diabetic Shoppe president Robert Salmon and his pharmacist received MTM training and mentoring.

“Faculty and residents helped us implement specialized MTM services in asthma and diabetes in my pharmacy,” Salmon said. “This has allowed us to expand the clinical pharmacy services offered in this underserved area of Mississippi.”

In Yazoo City, where 31 percent of residents live below the poverty line and more than 12 percent have diabetes, pharmacy school faculty, residents and students have been traveling to Webb’s Pharmacy regularly since September 2008 to assess and manage patients’ medication regimens and educate them about diet, exercise and taking their medications as prescribed. When they uncover medication-related problems, they work with patients’ primary care providers to resolve them.

School personnel also have been working closely with the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center in Yazoo City, which it has supplied with a clinical pharmacist since fall 2010.

“Integrating the pharmacist into our health care team has been beneficial for our physicians and, more importantly, our patients,” said Janice Bacon, the clinic’s executive director.

“We are beginning to see improvement in clinical outcomes from pharmacy interventions. Our clinic would not be able to provide this level of service without its partnership with the School of Pharmacy. Our community is grateful that the school generously provides access to the specialized care required to address the complex needs of our diabetes patients.”

The school also is collaborating with the Delta Health Alliance, a Beacon Community recipient, to expand adoption and use of electronic health records and other health information technology-driven communication between pharmacies, clinics and hospitals to improve clinical outcomes. The school’s efforts in this area are focused on the Indianola Family Medical Group.

The Impact

So far, pharmacists in 14 Delta community pharmacies have completed the American Pharmacists Association’s “Delivering Medication Therapy Management in the Community” certificate training program. The school also provided pharmacists and primary care providers with continuing education programs on cultural competency issues and caring for minority diabetes patients, and offered APhA’s “Pharmaceutical Care for Patients with Diabetes” certificate program to interested pharmacists.

UM and other pharmacists are providing MTM in 14 Delta communities, offering patients access to additional health care services. Patients enrolled in the program indicate they are more knowledgeable about their medications and are able to better control their diseases.

For patients like Bettina Hall of Yazoo City, who had been struggling to control her diabetes for some 20 years, the UM pharmacists’ work in the Delta is a blessing.

“I’ve been able to reduce my hemoglobin A1c from 12.9 percent to 8.9 percent,” Hall said.

She also administers her insulin shots at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day, without exception.

“They taught me that I need to take my shots twice a day at regular intervals to smooth out my blood sugar levels,” she said.

To date, faculty, students, residents and community pharmacists have conducted more than 1,800 MTM encounters, identified and helped correct more than 4,000 drug therapy problems, improved the conditions of nearly half of their patients and avoided untold emergency room visits.

The Team

“We have an incredible team of pharmacy practitioners, including Department of Pharmacy Practice faculty, residents and local pharmacists delivering patient-centered care to underserved populations in the Mississippi Delta and beyond,” Wells said. “Many practicing pharmacists and other health care professionals who live in these areas are passionately committed to these projects.”

Researchers in the Center for Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at the UM Medical Center, and faculty and graduate students in the pharmacy school’s Department of Pharmacy Administration and Center for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management are helping to evaluate the impact of the school’s activities.

“These projects are improving the health and quality of life of Mississippians and providing our students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned in our classrooms and labs,” Wells said. “Through these experiences, students see firsthand the impact they can have on the health and quality of life of underserved populations. These are life-changing lessons for students and patients.”

The pharmacy school’s Delta and Beacon projects are funded through grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to the Delta Health Initiative. Additional funds have been awarded from the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Diabetes and Cardiovascular Quality Improvement Initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The MSDH funds allow the school to expand its services by embedding three pharmacy faculty members in four community health centers throughout the Delta.

Revenue streams are being explored to make the Delta projects self-sustaining, so they can continue even if federal and state funds diminish.

In January, the pharmacy school and its partners at the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center in Yazoo City will receive another award for their work from the HRSA Patient Safety and Clinical Pharmacy Services Collaborative at its national meeting. At the same meeting in September 2010, the school and its partners at G.A. Carmichael and the DHA 21st Century Good Samaritan Health Center in Greenville won three awards: two Health Outcome Management and Clinical Pharmacy Services Improvement awards and an Outstanding Performance award.

For more information about the UM School of Pharmacy, call 662-915-7265 or visit