When the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened its doors in 2010, the inaugural group of students was certain of at least two things – they were being invited not only to learn about their profession but also to serve their communities.
Completely committed to fulfilling PC’s motto, Dum Vivimus Servimus, the School of Pharmacy adopted a mission to develop students who, in part, have an “unwavering ethical foundation” and will “dedicate their lives to community service.”
A scant year later, more than students have taken notice.
This fall, the Argus Commission of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy announced that the PC School of Pharmacy was one of only two schools nationally to be nominated for the Weaver Award for Transformative Community Service. The pharmacy school was the runner-up for the award.
According to Dr. Julie Sease, one of a team of pharmacy faculty charged with documenting PCSP’s commitment to service, the nomination was built on a wide range of factors – including admissions criteria, group projects like Service Day at student orientation, and institutional programs that benefit the local community.
One of PCSP’s most dynamic service projects is COMPASSION, a rough acronym for Creation of a Model Pharmacotherapy Service for the South Carolina Free Clinic Association. A collaboration between PCSP, the S.C. Free Clinic Association, and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield South Carolina Foundation, COMPASSION is an ongoing project begun in 2009 to provide care to underserved patients.
During its first year, PCSP established a pharmacotherapy clinic at Good Shepherd Free Medical Clinic in Clinton staffed by PCSP practice faculty. Specifically, Sease focused on diabetes patients, educating them about their disease and medications – and setting goals for their individual health.
After two years of collecting data, Sease said the program has made “statistically significant” gains in improving the lives of its patients – also saving the community approximately $280,000 in health care costs. Presenting its findings at the Diabetic Initiative earlier this year, PCSP won in the clinical category for a poster presentation.
Its partnership with Good Shepherd also gives students meaningful service learning opportunities that bring them face to face with underserved patients from throughout Laurens County. In 2010, PCSP established a licensed pharmacy at its Clinton campus where student volunteers combine learning and service in a functioning pharmacy.
Reaching out even more
Students and faculty also reach out publicly to the community at school-sponsored health programs on campus and in local schools, churches, and companies. Nearly a third of the pharmacy student body, for example, designed and led Poison Prevention Week activities earlier this year at Ford and Waterloo elementary schools where the educated children on the dangers of poisonous substances found in homes and how to avoid them.
PCSP students also managed to find time to volunteer with a variety of healthcare professionals outside Laurens County, including free medical clinics in Anderson and Woodruff, the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health Pharmacy in Greer, Hospice of the Upstate in Anderson, and Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands in Columbia.
“(Students) do a whole lot more than they have to,” Sease said.
The same can be said of her colleagues, as well. Service at PCSP isn’t only and expectation for students; it is modeled extensively by its faculty. In addition to their involvement in public health outreach programs and serving regularly at Good Shepherd and the PC Community Care Pharmacy, they have crocheted blankets for Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center, distributed food to the homeless at United Ministries of Clinton, and volunteered at Hospice of Laurens County, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the National Organization of Victim Assistance, among others.
While it has yet to graduate its first pharmacists, the School of Pharmacy already has proven a deep commitment to community service. It is, however, nice to get some outside validation for “Dum Vivimus Servimus.”
“It’s absolutely awesome to be one of the two top nominees,” said Sease. “… It’s very satisfying to know that our mission is being recognized, not just by our students but by other professional groups.”