Improving Health Through Medication Access

Pharmacy Times, June 2016 Women's Health, Volume 82, Issue 6

In January 2010, Dominique Dormeville watched as her parents' home country of Haiti suffered in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that affected many of her friends and relatives.

In January 2010, Dominique Dormeville watched as her parents’ home country of Haiti suffered in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that affected many of her friends and relatives. In the wake of this tragedy, Dormeville felt compelled to help the people of Haiti in any way she could, a call that ultimately led her to pursue a career in pharmacy. “This event significantly affected me and ultimately compelled me to search for a means to … aid in … Haiti’s recovery,” Dormeville, a 2018 PharmD candidate from the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, told Pharmacy Times.

Upon entering pharmacy school, Dormeville established a committee aimed at raising funds and coordinating relief efforts to help earthquake victims in Haiti. Then, in the spring of 2012, she led a group of her peers on a volunteer trip to Gonaives, Haiti, where they set up and ran mobile health clinics to assist patients in remote areas. “During our journey, we were able to provide basic medications for health issues ranging from muscle aches and pains to ear infections and high blood pressure. Also, we saw an increasing incidence of stomach pains, which we believed to be due to the lack of access to sanitary water,” Dormeville explained. “As a student, I was able to counsel on medications, and stress the importance of adherence in alleviating symptoms.”

During this trip, however, Dormeville observed how Haiti’s lack of an effective medical infrastructure exacerbated the health issues experienced by earthquake victims. “I saw firsthand how a significant number of people with easily treatable diseases ended up dying due to the lack of simple medications, in addition to the absence of health education and the scarcity of clean, running water,” she stated. “If they just had the right medications and treatments, they would be able to continue with their daily routine.”

Resolving to improve Haitians’ access to essential medication, Dormeville currently plans to open a nonprofit sustainable clinic in Jeremie, Haiti, called the Compassion Clinic of the Caribbean. She envisions that this clinic will allow pharmacists to work alongside physicians and nurses to help patients with hypertension—a leading cause of fatal cardiovascular events in Haiti—manage their condition through medication therapy.

“Many patients die every day in Haiti due to a lack of medication,” Dormeville said. “The skills and knowledge that pharmacists possess as drug experts allow them to play an important role in improving patient health and saving lives.”

Q: What do you think is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess?A: The most important qualities are compassion and cultural awareness. During my experiences in Haiti, I witnessed firsthand how important cultural awareness is for health care providers. I endeavor to use this knowledge to add cultural diversity to the profession and strengthen my ability to relate to the individuals I am responsible for. This is necessary to ensure that I provide optimal care not only medically, but socially and culturally also. This will make me a great pharmacist and reminds me that I must be a servant to my patients. Further, thoroughly understanding our patients’ needs and empathizing with their situation allows pharmacists to communicate appropriately with patients and address their concerns.

Q: What is the most important issue in pharmacy today? Why?A: One of the most important issues is the number of patients who are addicted to prescription medication, particularly controlled substances that are overprescribed. At times, it is difficult for pharmacists to determine whether patients actually need a medication or are abusing it.

Q: Is there a specific patient or person you’ve worked with who taught you something that will help you be a better pharmacist?A: The patients I care for have taught me how important it is for a pharmacist to be approachable to patients in a retail setting. Pharmacists are essentially the most accessible health care professionals, so it is imperative not to be intimidating and to properly engage with patients. Patients should feel comfortable asking questions pertaining to their health and overall well-being.

About the School

The South Carolina College of Pharmacy offers a traditional PharmD program and dual-degree programs that allow students to also pursue an MBA, MPH, or MHIT. Students can also apply to the school’s residency and fellowship programs, which provide participants with clinical and research experience.

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