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In a twist on the catch phrase, one could say that “Act locally, think globally” is a guiding principle for September’s Pharmacy Times/Walmart RESPy winner, Parth Parikh. A 2013 PharmD candidate from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy, Parikh chose pharmacy as a way to realize his dream to combine health care with public service.
As a first semester pharmacy student, Parikh immediately experienced the impact that pharmacists can have on underserved populations. Working in downtown Los Angeles with a homeless population, he helped provide screening and counseling services that changed the lives of people who otherwise had limited access to quality health care. This initial experience spurred Parikh to participate in long-term health care projects, such as a smoking cessation program for the homeless and Operation Diabetes.
Elected as the USC International Pharmacy Student Federation representative to the International Pharmaceutical Federation in 2010, Parikh became interested in sharing the model of the pharmacist as a health care provider on a global scale. He co-created Project India, an ambitious outreach project designed to increase clinical pharmacy education for pharmacy students in India. Current pharmacy education in India is mainly focused on drug development and research rather than on clinical services and patient care.
In preparation for the project, Parikh worked with other USC pharmacy students and faculty members to develop an educational program for diabetes screening. He raised funds from industry and received a grant from the USC Institute for Global Health to support the purchase of needed equipment. Parikh then travelled to the Gujarat region in India, where he recruited students 4 pharmacy schools to participate in program.
Parikh trained 52 student pharmacists in India to plan, coordinate, and execute health fairs with a focus on free diabetes screening and management. The students then held 7 health fairs over 2 weeks, during which 1025 participants were screened and 70 were referred to local physicians for further care. The training Parikh provided marked the start of a sustainable program that continued, and is in fact growing, after he returned to the United States.
Parikh says of the experience, “This project was executed in a very small-scale setting, which gave me an exposure to global health project planning. It was very rewarding since I got to interact with people who gained access to health information through the local pharmacy students. Just the sense of appreciation on the faces of the participants was incredible.”
Back in California, Parikh continues to pursue his interest in expanding the role of the pharmacist as a provider of clinical health care services. Pharmacy Times asked this ambitious young student about his own future, the future of the profession, and the person who inspired his vision of patient care.
Q. What are your long-term professional goals?
A. Currently, I plan on finishing pharmacy school and then gaining some work experience as a pharmacist. For a long-term goal, I would like to work with India’s academic institutions to improve their academic programs to incorporate the progressive thoughts of pharmacy care, such as ambulatory care, clinical care, geriatrics care, etc.
Q. What do you think is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?
A. In the midst of reimbursement cuts, legal liability, and trying to run the business at some sort of profitability, the pharmacist has been distracted from patient care. This has directly translated to the lack of awareness of our profession in the society. We still struggle to demonstrate and utilize our true skills and ability in society.
Q. What do you think is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess?
A. The most important quality a pharmacist should possess is the ability to effectively communicate and educate their patients. Currently, most patients receive 2 minutes of counseling per prescription. Good, efficient communication skills can effectively get the health message out in the limited feasible time and make an impact on the patient’s health.
Q. Is there a specific person who taught you something that will help you be a better pharmacist?
A. From the Indian Pharmacist Association’s key leader, I.R. Patel, I learned that personal connection with each patient is a key to successful business and optimal patient care. As a pharmacist, I will put significant effort in getting to know the customers.
About the School
Established in 1905, The University of Southern California School of Pharmacy offers a Doctor of Pharmacy program as well as graduate programs in molecular pharmacology and toxicology, pharmaceutical sciences, and pharmaceutical economics and policy. For more information, visit http://pharmacyschool.usc.edu.
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.