In The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy, student pharmacists are involved in intensive direct patient-care training throughout their entire four-year professional curriculum.
This training starts the very first week of class when all students learn how to conduct health screenings. By the time they graduate, they will be certified pharmacist immunizers as well as holders of certificates in Medication Therapy Management, CPR and IV Admixtures. However, their education extends beyond the classroom and into the surrounding communities through health fairs and other outreach programs.
The College of Pharmacy’s primary community outreach program is Project Collaborate, whose mission is to “provide quality health screening and health education services to underserved citizens of Texas, provide a means for student pharmacists to enhance their patient interaction and clinical skills, promote interdisciplinary collaboration, and advance the profession of pharmacy.”
Project Collaborate has partnered for several years with outside organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and Univision to work together to improve the quality of health for those populations that cannot otherwise afford health-screening services. Student leaders are involved in all aspects of these health fairs, including working directly with the organizational leaders on the event logistics, maintaining inventory control on all screening supplies, setting budgets and maintaining finances, publicizing and advertising, securing pharmacist preceptors to oversee the students, and scheduling shifts for the events.
Funding for the organization is provided by alumni donations. Student professional organizations within the college contribute by creating and presenting educational posters and activities at each event.
Before the creation of Project Collaborate, the various student professional organizations conducted separate screening and educational events. These were scattered and impact was minimal. In Spring 2009, Julieta Scalo, president of the UT student chapter of the American Pharmacists Association, brought together representatives from all of the student organizations in an effort to combine limited resources and increase their impact. Project Collaborate was born.
In its first year, it provided approximately 2,000 screenings with a budget of $2,000. The following two years carried efforts a step further. While we were conducting and educating patients on their health screening values, our efforts stopped there and did not provide critical follow-up care. We responded by inviting the School of Nursing and the School of Social Work to partner with us.
The School of Nursing provided graduate nursing students to talk with patients in greater detail concerning their chronic conditions while the School of Social Work provided a list of greatly needed community resources for those patients who needed follow-up care.
One of our main challenges has been keeping representatives from the School of Nursing and School of Social Work on the planning committee and to assure their participation in the events. Their participation is key to the success of this program and the outcomes of the patients we serve. As is the case with pharmacy students, nursing and social work students need faculty or preceptors to oversee their participation. This is a critical issue in moving forward.
Our 2012–2013 year saw some amazing milestones in the organization, including:
- Performing more than 7,100 screenings at 26 events
- Community Service Award from the Texas Exes Parents Association
- November 2012 Outstanding Student Organization of the Month from the UT Volunteer and Service Learning Center
- Academic Accolades center court recognition at the UT vs. Texas Tech basketball game
This next year promises to be even more exciting, and we look forward to sharing in our success together!
—Sharon Rush, R.Ph., B.S. in Pharmacy
Clinical Assistant Professor
Division of Health Outcomes and Pharmacy Practice
Project Collaborate Advisor
Editor’s Note: If you would like more information about how to be a part of Project Collaborate, please phone Dr. Bobbie Sterling at the School of Nursing, 512-232-8264.