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New Practitioners Network
Educating the Underserved on Medication Adherence: An Interdisciplinary Collaboration Between Schweitzer Fellows and the New Practitioner’s Network

by Samah Qasmieh, PharmD and Bernice Man, PharmD

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is a service fellowship that aims to create healthcare leaders who will positively impact underserved and vulnerable populations facing health inequities. Graduate students from a multitude of healthcare disciplines create service projects that target underserved populations who experience barriers to healthcare. Healthcare disciplines represented in the fellowship include pharmacy, medicine, nursing, law, disability studies, podiatry, dentistry, social work, and art therapy, among others. Examples of underserved populations include prisoners, homeless and housing insecure, low-income, immigrant, LGBTQ, and disabled individuals. Specific geographic neighborhoods are also included. Fellowship chapters currently exist in 15 cities across the country, including San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans, and Chicago. The Chicago Area program selects 30 fellows annually and is particularly diverse with representation in recent years from Northwestern, University of Chicago, Loyola, Rush, UIC, DePaul, Illinois College of Optometry, Rosalind Franklin, Dominican, the School of the Art Institute, Columbia College, and Chicago State. Over the past ten years, ten fellows have represented the pharmacy profession in the Chicago Area program. Upon acceptance into the fellowship, Schweitzer fellows partner with a community-based organization to administer their 200-hour service project over the course of a year. Examples of past pharmacy fellow projects include delivering disease state presentations in Cantonese to older, adult, Chinese immigrants in Chinatown and leading a medication therapy management program at a clinic for uninsured individuals.

On October 29th, volunteers from the New Practitioner’s Network (NPN) delivered a presentation on medication adherence to homeless and housing insecure clientele at the EZRA Multi-Service Center in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. The morning started with meeting Schweitzer fellow Tyrone Johnson and his colleague David Gu, second-year medical students at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, respectively. We spent time inquiring about the center’s clientele to personalize and tailor the medication adherence presentation as much as possible. Upon first meeting the audience, about 15 women, we quickly learned the group was very diverse in terms of health literacy. Because of this variety, we started the presentation with asking the group, “What does adherence mean to you?” and then going over the basic tenets of medication adherence. Furthermore, we explained the importance of medication adherence and related how good adherence can reduce the amount of emergency room visits and total health care costs. 

We spent a lot of time reviewing strategies on how the group could remain adherent with their medications. We had a very collaborative discussion with our audience. One of the clients shared her experience with a mobile phone app that she uses to organize all of her medications and upcoming appointments. Though our original goal was to present on medication adherence, we ended up spending the majority of the time getting to know the clientele via bi-directional, open dialogue. We had heart-to-heart conversations with them and learned what their individual barriers were to medication adherence. A common barrier we observed was a lack of understanding of the indication for each medication. Many of the clientele were frustrated because they felt their questions and concerns were not adequately addressed by their providers. Although we were limited by time, we addressed as many concerns and answered as many questions as possible. We truly felt they left feeling more confident and reassured than they did before our discussion. Some of the clientele were so engaged that they stayed after the session to ask more questions. Upon further reflection after the event, we will aim to encourage participation from every single member of the audience in future presentations.

It was an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience to meet people of different backgrounds and for everyone to learn from each other. The NPN has other potential Schweitzer collaboration projects pending and we look forward to holding another event soon. 

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