Bridging Gaps in Community Care

Aimee Simone, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Of her many experiences and accomplishments during her time at the Oklahoma University College of Pharmacy, reaching patients of diverse and underserved areas was the most rewarding for Elizabeth Rathgeber.

“It has been amazing to interact with unique individuals and provide them with accessible health care services and education,” she said.

The 2014 PharmD candidate quickly distinguished herself as a leader when she was elected to serve as the 2011-2012 president-elect of the university’s Student National Pharmaceutical Association chapter at the end of her P1 year. She then served as president of the organization during the 2012-2013 school year, providing screenings, medication counseling, immunizations, and education on various topics to diverse communities. During her time as president, the chapter tripled in size and was selected as the university’s representative organization to coordinate 4 health fairs. The chapter’s community outreach efforts for underserved patients were so successful that it was recognized as one of the top 3 medium-sized chapters in the country.

The chapter was also selected as a regional winner of the 2013 Walmart Prescription for Service Competition for the chapter’s diabetes awareness program for 7th and 8th graders in a medically underserved area. Under Rathgeber’s leadership, pharmacy student volunteers visited the Marcus Garvey Leadership Charter School and educated students on proper nutrition, exercise, and diabetes awareness and prevention.

“Reaching out to students at high risk for diabetes and providing them with the tools for a healthy life is a rewarding experience,” Rathgeber said.

In addition to the patient care experience she gained from community outreach, she sharpened her clinical skills through internships in nuclear pharmacy with GE Healthcare and Cardinal Health. She also presented nuclear pharmacy research at the 2012 and 2013 American Pharmacists Association annual meetings and received an American Pharmacist Association­­–Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management Presentation Merit Award for her presentation in 2012.

With her PharmD, with a specialization in nuclear pharmacy, Rathgeber will complete a pharmacy practice residency at Norman Regional Health System in Norman, Oklahoma.

Q Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?
A Growing up, I was always interested in science, and also in helping people in any way I could. My interest in pharmacy started during my undergraduate education while taking biochemistry and human physiology. The concept of how certain substances can impact the physiology of the human body fascinated me, and I decided that a career in pharmacy would suit my interest in chemistry and pharmacology.

Q Tell me about your summer internships. Why did you choose nuclear pharmacy?
A The University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy has been great for gaining experience with nuclear pharmacy and opening my eyes to this unique field. As an intern, I was able to receive orders from nuclear medicine departments, prepare and dispense radiopharmaceuticals, and test preparations for quality control. My 2 summer internships with GE Healthcare and Cardinal Health were excellent opportunities to gain in-depth experience with commercial nuclear pharmacies. Even though the hours for nuclear pharmacy are very early (sometimes starting at 10:00 the night before), I have enjoyed my experience with such a unique field of pharmacy and seeing the different ways a pharmacist can make a difference.

Q What have you learned that will help you be a better pharmacist?
A Many of the anticoagulation and diabetes patients I met during my ambulatory care rotation taught me not to take information at face value. Information that you incorrectly assume [to be true] could prevent the patient from receiving the best care possible. My patients have taught me to always ask more questions if something does not make sense.

Q What do you think is the most important issue in pharmacy today? Why?
A I feel that the current movement [toward] pharmacists achieving provider status is critical for the future of our profession. Achieving provider status for pharmacists would also relieve much of the work burden on the physician, ultimately reducing health care costs.


About the School
The University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy is part of the multidisciplinary University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Founded in 1896, the College of Pharmacy has locations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. It offers the doctor of pharmacy professional degree program with 4 tracks of specialization, as well as PharmD/MS dual-degree programs and graduate programs in the pharmaceutical sciences.



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