Delivering Health Care and Hope to the Underserved
Author: Jennifer Barrio, Managing Editor
Lauren Simonds helps undeserved populations whose health care needs are often overlooked.
Lauren Simonds’ dedication to community service is not an exercise in resume building—December’s Walmart/Pharmacy Times RESPy winner truly cares about improving health care for the underprivileged. A 2011 PharmD candidate at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), Simonds has already used her pharmacy expertise to make a huge impact with needy populations.
In 2009, Simonds initiated the Pharmacists for Foster Kids Project, which helps empower foster parents to better manage their foster children’s medications. “Many are unaware that children in foster care are the most vulnerable to experiencing poor health compared with any other group of children in the United States,” Simonds said. Pharmacy students in the project have educated foster parents about asthma and the proper use of nebulizers, distributed first aid kits, and developed patient education materials on asthma in both English and Spanish.
On an alternative spring break program, Simonds and a group of health sciences students from MCPHS traveled to South Dakota to work with a nonprofit organization on a Lakota reservation. There she encountered a population who lived in near third-world conditions. Surprisingly, there was not a single community pharmacy available to residents, even though the reservation spans more than 2 million acres.
During her time on the reservation, Simonds helped provide health care services, repair trailer homes, and build outhouses. “Leaving the reservation was very difficult, as it seemed we had accomplished so little compared to the extensive privation,” Simonds said. “It felt as if I left half my heart with the Lakota people.”
Pharmacy Times asked Simonds about her own future and the future of the profession, and it became clear that helping the needy will continue to be her focus in the years ahead.
Q Was there a moment when you knew pharmacy was right for you?
A My experiences as part of a team that worked collaboratively with the pharmacists, customers, doctors, and insurance providers have convinced me that this is the profession in which I would find both challenge and fulfillment. I know pharmacy is the right profession for me each time I look at a prescription bottle and see the face of a patient and not simply pills within it.
Q What are your plans after graduation?
A I hope to become a competent, compassionate clinical pharmacist and contribute to providing health care for the disadvantaged. I am particularly interested in ambulatory care and pediatric pharmacy. I’d like to contribute to the education and development of future pharmacists by providing opportunities for students to serve neglected indigent populations. I hope to work towards these goals while pursuing a residency.
Q What do you think is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?
A The provision of care for those of all socioeconomic classes. With the rising costs of care, minimizing health disparities will become an even more challenging task. Pharmacists can play a part to contain health care costs. For example, pharmacists can increase patient education through medication therapy management. We can maximize the benefit of pharmacotherapy and prevent harmful adverse drug reactions through anticoagulation and heart failure clinics. Increasing the utilization of pharmacists to decrease health costs and provide quality care for an entire nation of patients will be a central endeavor for the profession in the years ahead.
Q Is there a specific person who taught you something that will help you be a better pharmacist?
A On my intermediate pharmacy rotation, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing community pharmacist named Thao. Although Thao was the manager of a very busy pharmacy, she never seemed to let the building queue or ringing phone interfere with providing superb patient care. With her patient demeanor, she was able to communicate her knowledge of pharmacy in a clear and concise fashion. Thao is one of the most devoted and hardest working pharmacists I have ever met in my 7 years as a pharmacy technician. She will definitely serve as a role model for me in years to come. PT
The RESPy (Respect, Excellence, and Service in Pharmacy) Award is presented to the student who has made a difference in his or her community by demonstrating excellence in pharmaceutical care. For more information, please visit www.PharmacyTimes.com.
About the school
Founded in 1823, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) is the oldest institution of higher education in Boston. MCPHS’s 3 campuses offer more than 30 degree and certificate programs, including the accelerated PharmD and postbaccalaureate PharmD pathway programs, and MS and PhD programs in pharmaceutics and pharmacology.
Jennifer Barrio, Managing Editor