Professors and students help serve uninsured residents

Nearly 1,000 residents in the local community find the medical treatment and care they need at the Good Shepherd Free Medical Clinic.

The clinic has been providing medical care to uninsured residents for the past 25 years. The PC School of Pharmacy has been partnering with Good Shepherd for the past nine of those years.

Providing Team-Based Care

In 2010, one of the first pharmacy professors from the PC School of Pharmacy developed a practice site at Good Shepherd.

“She saw patients in tandem with a provider, focusing on diabetes and hypertension, but also other disease states,” said Dr. Tiffaney Threatt, associate professor at PC School of Pharmacy and director of the PCSP Wellness Center. “That was the beginning of our efforts to provide team-based care at Good Shepherd.”

A year later, in 2011, the pharmacy school opened a pharmacy to help fill the medication needs of patients of the clinic. Good Shepherd uses funding to pay for the generic medications that the pharmacy dispenses, and PC uses funding to augment supplies and some medications.

“We come together to fill the prescriptions and meet the needs for patients who couldn’t otherwise afford their medication,” Threatt said.

“An enormous service”

Cindy Perry, executive director of the Good Shepherd Free Medical Clinic, says the pharmacy school has provided an “enormous service” to the clinic.

“The in-kind dispensing that the faculty and students provide our patients at the PC Community Care Pharmacy saves the clinic a lot of money,” Perry said. “It also relieves the clinic of a lot of liability that we carried in the past when we had an on-site, dispensing pharmacy.”

The PC School of Pharmacy began providing diabetes education and management support for Good Shepherd patients in 2012. Good Shepherd refers patients to the pharmacy school’s Wellness Center for diabetes education and support management.

“The Wellness Center in the PC School of Pharmacy does a fine job of diabetes education,” Perry Said. “We have experienced a lot of success with a1c (average blood sugar) levels dropping because of their care.”

More Ways to Serve

The ties between PC and the Good Shepherd Medical Clinic has evolved even further now that the Physician Assistant Studies Program is up and running. Dr. Trey Boyd, assistant professor and clinical director of the program, has been working at the clinic for nearly two years.

Boyd, Threatt and pharmacy school students, visit the clinic on Tuesday mornings to provide care for patients with diabetes. Pharmacy students on rotation with Threatt and Ward are also involved in this aspect of patient-care. A team-based care model has been established, with Threatt or Ward and the upper-level graduate pharmacy students seeing the patients first.

“We assess how the patient is managing their diabetes,” Threatt said. “We look specifically at how patients are using their medication and if they’re using them correctly. If not, we try to provide education for the patients so they can get the most out of their medications.

“In some cases, we may recommend changes to their medication regimen such as dose adjustments or the addition of a new medication. We also talk to them about lifestyle changes that can make a positive impact on their health.”

Threatt and others pass along recommendations to Boyd, who serves as the physician assistant for the patient.

“If it’s determined that the patients need further reinforcement or diabetes education, they get referred to our diabetes education program at the School of Pharmacy and come see us for very focused diabetes education needs,” Threatt said.

Making a Difference

Boyd likes the progress he’s already seen in patients.

“It seems to be going really well,” Boyd said. “We’re making a difference in helping to treat diabetes in the community.”

Boyd said that PA students will begin providing care at the Good Shepherd Free Medical Clinic soon. According to Boyd, the clinic provides a place for students to learn as they help check patients’ medical histories, conduct screenings, and check blood pressures and blood sugars.

A Learning Opportunity for Students

The experience is a big plus for the students, according to Perry.

“I believe all student medical personnel should take a turn in a free clinic for the exposure they receive in working with a clientele that lacks resources for basic health care,” she said.

The PA Studies Program can help provide more care to those in need too. According to Perry, an average of 35 patients go to the clinic in the three days it’s open each week.  An additional 10 to 12 patients could go to the clinic each week if more advanced practice providers, like PA’s, were there.

“If PA students are available in the near future to shadow or go into exam rooms ahead of providers to document the patients’ historical issues, doctors will be able to keep the visit efficient,” Perry said. “We’ll be able to expand patient capacity, using the same normal hours of operation.”

Boyd, Perry and Threatt are excited about the partnership that continues to evolve to provide healthcare for those in need in the community.

“It’s been a great partnership. It’s been a win-win for everybody,” Threatt said. “We definitely feel like our mission is to serve the community. That’s why we’re here.

“We have amazing patients at Good Shepherd Free Medical Clinic, and it’s a privilege to work with them.”

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