Meeting Patients Where They Are Leads to High-Quality Care
Evelyn Cowan, PharmD Candidate 2011
Typically, pharmacists can only counsel and educate one patient at a time, but Evelyn Cowan has found innovative ways to affect entire patient populations positively. March’s Walmart/Pharmacy Times RESPy winner strives to meet her patients halfway, whether that means providing quality health care to the uninsured, conquering a language barrier, or scheduling dosing around a busy schedule.
Cowan, a 2011 PharmD candidate at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, makes a big local impact through her work with organizations including the Salvation Army and Mercy Clinic, which provides health services to patients without insurance in Athens, Georgia. She has also participated in a volunteer medical mission trip to Peru through the Villa La Paz Foundation and the Center for Destitute and Sick Children and taught English to kindergarten children in Costa Rica.
Cowan said that her work with the Farm Worker Family Health Program has been her most rewarding service experience. With allied health students from other universities, Cowan helped conduct mobile health clinics for migrant workers in rural southern Georgia. As part of the pharmacy team, she managed donations, streamlined medication dispensing, and provided clinical services. Thanks in part to her efforts, the team was able to provide basic care and native-language counseling for several hundred migrant farm workers and their families.
An innovative thinker, Cowan has also reached patients she couldn’t actually see. Cowan organized Radio Rx, a 12-week local radio program on key topics, including acetaminophen safety, stimulant abuse, H1N1 prevention, and American Pharmacists Month. Dedicated to helping others in any way she can, Cowan told Pharmacy Times about the patient who shaped her outlook and how an encounter providing impromptu care nearly got her a ticket.
Is there someone who taught you a lesson that will help you be a better pharmacist?
I met one young lady on my outpatient ID rotation needing counseling on her first month of HAART (highly active antiretroviral) therapy. We discussed the importance of consistency and that the first few weeks might bring some uncomfortable side effects. She was nervous about starting therapy, and finally revealed that because she worked fulltime and attended school at night, she normally ate once a day at 9 pm and went directly to bed. Because her new regimen ideally is taken before bedtime on an empty stomach, we discussed at length how best to schedule her dose. She taught me that sometimes you have to meet your patients where they are and work out the best plan, though it may not be the ideal textbook situation.
Q. What do you think about technology in the pharmacy?
Technology is a necessary tool. Dispensing robots, electronic order entry, and electronic medication administration record and scheduling (eMARS) can increase efficiency, streamline documentation, and reduce medication errors. Of course, there will be growing pains along the way, but as these programs become more sophisticated, I believe patient care can improve.
Q. What are your plans after graduation?
A. I have applied to several PGY1 pharmacy practice residencies in the southeast United States. Beyond next year, I hope to attain board certification in pharmacotherapy and possibly complete a second year of residency. My other long-term goals are to eventually obtain a master’s degree in public health and be a clinical pharmacist practicing in an area of public health. Additionally, I would like to precept and teach at a pharmacy school.
Q. Is there a funny story you would like to share about your time in pharmacy school?
A. I have had 2 “near misses” when it comes to taking final exams. The first instance was the classic “I slept through my alarm.” I ran out of my house, parked illegally at school, and barely made it to my final.
The second time, I actually left my house considerably early for our third year lab practical. On my way, I passed a fallen pedestrian having convulsions, so I pulled over and helped other bystanders put him in a stable position until the ambulance arrived. I realized that I could still make it (if I parked illegally again), and I did make it to the lab with enough time. But, my luck ran out when I found a bright yellow parking ticket on my windshield after my practical! Thankfully, parking services waived my fine, and I have never tested my luck since then. PT
About the School
The University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, based in Athens, Georgia, was founded in 1903. Today, the College’s 6-year PharmD program combines classroom, laboratory, and experiential training in a curriculum focused on human physiology and disease states. Graduate studies at the college are offered in the areas of clinical and administrative pharmacy, pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences, and regulatory affairs and clinical trials.
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/RESPy.