Pharmacists Are Being Recognized for Their Contributions to the Field of Infectious Disease

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Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP, discusses being the second pharmacist in IDSA history to receive a society award and what this means not only for her, but for the field.

As a part of our celebration of Women Pharmacist Day, Pharmacy Times looks to honor women making a difference in the field of pharmacy. In this interview, Pharmacy Times spoke with Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of California San Diego in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences as well as the Division of the Black Diaspora and African American Studies, about her receipt of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Society Award in Clinical Practice Innovation. Abdul-Mutakabbir, who is an editorial advisory board member and associate editor for Pharmacy Times Health-System Edition, is the second pharmacist in IDSA history to receive a society award, and the first Black pharmacist to receive this award.

Pharmacy Times: What is the IDSA Society Award you will be receiving and what does this award mean to you?

Key Takeaways

  1. Recognition and Impact in Infectious Disease Practice: Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir is receiving the IDSA Society Award for Clinical Practice Innovation, which highlights her significant contributions to advancing clinical practice in infectious diseases. This award reflects her recognition as a trusted and effective representative in the field of infectious diseases, particularly in addressing disparities and mitigating them.
  2. Promoting Vaccination and Trusted Information: One of Abdul-Mutakabbir's proudest achievements is her role in getting people excited about receiving vaccines. She values the trust placed in her by her community, especially by pastors and individuals who recognize her as a reliable source of fact-based information. Her work not only involves her professional accomplishments but also the positive impact she has on the community she serves.
  3. Encouragement for Black PharmDs: As the first Black PharmD to receive this award, Abdul-Mutakabbir's advice to other Black PharmDs is to push the envelope and not be limited by preconceived notions. She encourages Black PharmDs to view every "no" as an opportunity to innovate and make a meaningful contribution to the field. She emphasizes the importance of representation and expresses her gratitude to the supportive community of Black women in the field of infectious diseases, both pharmacists and physicians, who have paved the way and continue to be mentors and inspirations.
  4. Importance of Diversity, Innovation, and Community: Overall, Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir's achievements and recognition in the field of infectious diseases, as well as her advice and appreciation for fellow professionals, highlight the importance of diversity, innovation, and community support in advancing the field of pharmacy.

Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP: The IDSA Society Award that I'll be receiving is the Clinical Practice Innovation Award. I'm so excited to be receiving the award because they recognize someone that has significantly advanced the clinical practice of infectious diseases. And I think that is just such an honor to be deemed as a representative or a good representative by the utmost authority for infectious diseases in the United States. So IDSA is such a big organization, and I'm so grateful and so humbled to have received the award. But more importantly, I think that it really just showcases the importance of the work that I've been doing, not only with the pastors, but just the outcomes work that I've been doing in terms of really trying to mitigate and address inequities. And I'm just so excited about it.

"I'm so excited to be receiving the award because they recognize someone that has significantly advanced the clinical practice of infectious diseases." Image Credit: © Shutter2U - stock.adobe.com

"I'm so excited to be receiving the award because they recognize someone that has significantly advanced the clinical practice of infectious diseases." Image Credit: © Shutter2U - stock.adobe.com

Pharmacy Times: What are some of your achievements in the field of infectious disease that you are most proud of?

Abdul-Mutakabbir: I think that when I have to consider what it is that I'm most proud of, it may be honestly, getting folks vaccinated. I think that there are many things that I could be excited for. I mean, the accolades, the awards—I would be wrong if I said that I wasn't extremely excited about receiving them, because most people are. But I think that for me it’s having folks excited about receiving the vaccine. But more importantly, I think what it is, is having pastors speak about me as though I am a trusted messenger for them to like, recognize my name and to know that the information that I'm giving is fact based, I think that's the most important thing to me. My parents always taught me that what you do, that I should do to the glory of God and for the glory of God. And I feel like that that is a direct representation of that when folks that look like me can say, “I'm excited that Dr. JAM is here, because now I can get adequate information,” or when I have folks tell me, “I am only receiving the vaccine, if you give it to me,” that's just a sheer representation of what it is that I have come to mean to them, and just a representation of my representation of ID. So yeah, I guess if I had to sum it up, I'm most proud of that.

Pharmacy Times: As the first Black PharmD to receive this award, what is your advice to other Black PharmDs who may be looking to advance their career in pharmacy?

About the Expert

Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP, is currently an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of California San Diego in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences as well as the Division of the Black Diaspora and African American Studies. Her clinical and research focus is centered on antimicrobial resistance and stewardship, where she identifies disparities and further explores the utility of preventative therapeutics in narrowing health equity gaps.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in partnership with the Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), Abdul-Mutakabbir developed a “3-tiered” community-academic collaborative model aimed toward increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake within San Bernardino County, CA Black communities. The 3 tiers included engaging Black Faith/Community Leaders (first tier), the provision of vaccine education from a Black pharmacist (second tier), and the placement of low-barrier vaccination clinics within Black communities (third tier). To date, this multifaceted approach has resulted in the vaccination of more than 3500 individuals against COVID-19, with more than 85% of them identifying as a part of a racially/ethnically minoritized group. The findings from her community-based participatory research have been published in various journals including the Lancet Global Health and the Lancet Regional Health. Her expert opinion surrounding topics such as immunizations and improving uptake within minoritized communities have been featured in NPR, Scientific American, and US NEWS, among others.

Abdul-Mutakabbir also conducts translational research focused on identifying disparities in infectious diseases clinical outcomes. She has published several articles focused on identifying racial and social vulnerability differences in various infectious disease states, including Clostridium difficile infection, candidemia, and others. Additionally, she has presented both nationally and internationally on topics focused on prioritizing equity throughout antimicrobial stewardship programs and associated efforts.

Her dedication to improving public health has been recognized by the United States Public Health Services, as she was the 2017 recipient of the USPHS Outstanding Service Award, and she currently serves as an appointed member of the CVSH Health Equity National Advisory Board. She was also the 2021 recipient of the Society of Infectious Disease Gita Patel Best Practice Award, the awardee of the 2022 American Pharmacists Association-Immunization Champion (Honorable Mention) award, the 2021 recipient of the Wayne State University Warrior of Distinction of Alumni Award and was named a 30 under 30 Scientist by ECCMID at their 2021 31st annual meeting. Abdul-Mutakabbir continues to be an active member of several professional organizations including the American Society of Microbiology (ASM), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA).

Abdul-Mutakabbir: First and foremost, it's an honor to be the first Black PharmD to receive this award and an award from IDSA in general in the 60 years since its inception, and then the second pharmacist overall to receive an award from IDSA. This showcases the movement and just the evolution of how it is that a pharmacy is being represented, especially in like organizations that have predominant physician membership. So I'm really excited about that—we are being recognized for our contributions.

If I had to give a word of advice to individuals, or individuals that look like me, so Black PharmDs, it would be to always remember to push the envelope. I think that so often as marginalized individuals, we feel like we have to fit a certain mold, or that we have to accept certain things. One thing that I've really worked hard to do is to push what that looks like. I have worked hard to not allow for others or even myself to place what I do, and who I am into a box. I think that when you think about individuals that are marginalized the word ‘no’ is something that we hear so often. And one thing I always say is that every ‘no’ is just an opportunity to innovate. So I think that we have to approach it as that.

But I want to wrap this with saying that I stand on the shoulders of so many amazing Black infectious disease clinicians that have been physicians and pharmacists that have come before me. I'm so honored to be a representative in that way. And more importantly, to just show other folks that look like me that this is possible and is achievable. We can be recognized for our contributions. I'm very excited and above all very honored and extremely blessed.

Pharmacy Times: Are there any women in pharmacy who you would like to call out due to their contribution to the field?

Abdul-Mutakabbir: Absolutely. So there are so many women but when I think about women in pharmacy that I like to call on I got to start out with my Black girls that are ID PharmDs. They have been my support system. They're my family. They're my sisters. I'm so thankful to them. Robbie Christian PharmD, BCIDP, AAHIVP; Meshell Maxam, PharmD, BCIDP; Ramara Walker, PharmD, BCIDP, AAHIVP; Yewande Dayo, PharmD, BCIDP; Brenda Simiyu, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP, AAHIVP, just some of the most beautiful people that I know. I'm so thankful for them.

Kierra M. Dotson, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP, who is not only, my sister, but one of my mentors, and she was just one of the first Black women that I saw in the space that I wanted to be in as a researcher. I'm so thankful to her and for her grace, and in really mentoring me and helping me navigate this space.

Sharanie Sims, PharmD, MPH, BCIDP, BCPS, I love her so much. She really created a space for Black women in ID PharmD. She actually created a residency program and specifically worked so hard to recruit and to make it a safe haven for Black individuals that wanted to practice in ID pharmacy. So thank you Sharanie for what she has been to us and for us.

Edo-Abasi McGee, PharmD, BCPS, who has just been a support system for me, and in such a beautiful person. I'd also like to thank Sara Alosaimy PharmD, MPH, BCPS, AAHIVP; Razieh Kebriaei PhD; Karen Tan, PharmD, BCIDP, my research partner—I'm so thankful to them.

I'd like to close it out with thanking some ID physicians who have championed me and really sponsored me and have above all allowed for me to diverse spaces that pharmacists are not typically in and have really sponsored me in their way. So Jasmine Marcelin, MD; Mati Davis, MD, MPH; Talia Swartz, MD, PhD; Zanthia Wiley, MD; Ibukun Kalu, MD, and so many women I feel like I don't want to forget anybody. Betsy Hersh is an ID PharmD. I love her so much. Britny Brown, PharmD, BCOP, and Ila Saunders, PharmD, BCOP, so many just—Caroline Ko, PharmD--so many beautiful women that have done so much for me and that have like really just been such a safe space for me. I'm so thankful to them and for them.

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