/publications/issue/2007/2007-10/2007-10-8184

Winner Shows Passion for Public Service

Author: Barbara Sax

Working with the public can be a challenge, but for this month's RESPy Award winner, Lisa Adams, it is what she enjoys most about her pharmacy training. Adams, in her last year at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill School of Pharmacy, believes that it is very important to understand "where your patient is coming from and how they are feeling."

In her current rotation at Rural Health Group, a federally funded ambulatory care clinic, she treats underprivileged patients who are underserved by health services. It can be a challenge.

"Many of the patients cannot read, and they really do not understand some of the issues they face when it comes to their medication," said Adams. She believes that her background (she comes from a small, rural community) gives her an advantage in communicating with patients. "When I can reach them and see that lightbulb go on, it makes me feel like I have made a big impact," she said.

The lightbulb does not always go on. "I am working with a patient who will not take his anticoagulant meds because he is afraid he will spontaneously bleed out. He is not at risk of that, but since he is not taking his medication, he is at high risk of stroke or heart attack. If I can get through to this patient, it would make my year," she said.

Adams remains determined and focused on success-a professional who is always up for a challenge. "We will sometimes have an unruly customer come in, and everyone will run in the back and hide," she said. "Not me. I look at it as a chance to make that customer's trip to the pharmacy a success. There is a reason that customer is disgruntled. They need their meds, they are sick, and they need someone to help them."

Too often, Adams said, health care professionals are not spending enough time with patients. "Working with patients is the only thing that got me through pharmacy school," she said. "The constant interaction and the fact that patients look to you for advice.... You can have a huge impact on a patient's health."

Adams certainly makes an impact on her patients. "Working with the public is one of her greatest strengths," said Stefanie Ferreri, PharmD, CDE, clinical assistant professor and director of the community pharmacy residency program at UNC School of Pharmacy. "She has tons of patience. Her caring attitude and exceptional customer service skills keep patients coming back to her store."

In her nomination letter for Adams, Dr. Ferreri also described the many volunteer efforts in which Adams has participated. At UNC, she has been involved in a student volunteer organization called Student Health Action Coalition, through which she helped with a program called "Reach Out and Read" at a medically underserved health clinic. She also has been involved with a program called "Taking Action by Service" for 2 years, where she volunteers to play bingo at a retirement community, and spends time at the UNC Pediatric activities hours.

Adams believes that reforms in health care are needed to ensure that patients are getting the care and information they need."I think we need to switch to a preventive care paradigm," she said. "I also think we need to unite for grassroots legislative efforts to address poor reimbursement."

Helping to make that happen is very important to Adams. "I want to be a champion of my profession for my colleagues," she said. "Medicare Part D should not be where it is, and I want to be a resource for other pharmacists to get them involved in changing that. Now is their time to be active."

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill School of Pharmacy has built a reputation for cutting-edge research, rigorous programs, and outstanding faculty, staff, and students. Founded in 1897, the UNC pharmacy school is the only public school of pharmacy in the state and one of the oldest in the nation.

The school provides students with a wide range of opportunities. U.S. News & World Report ranks the school's PharmD program in the top 3 in the nation. In 2006, the school received more than $8.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, ranking eighth among the nation's pharmacy schools.

The school's proximity to Research Triangle Park, an international center for pharmaceutical research and development, affords students with unique opportunities. Faculty and students are actively involved in research projects ranging from the discovery of new drugs to assessments of the efficacy of existing drugs and treatment regimens.