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Pharmacy Student Sees Benefits to Learning with Medical Students

December 30, 2020
Abby Henry PharmD

When Abby Henry, PharmD was a student at Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences last year, she signed up for a Population Health Clerkship along with medical students in the Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health track at Baystate.

She found the experience of learning in interprofessional teams so beneficial she returned this year.

And she says that she would absolutely recommend this experience to other pharmacy students.

Learning How Health Professionals Come Together For the Community

The Population Health Clerkship, a 2-week experience for PURCH students, has welcomed 15 pharmacy students from Western New England University and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences over the last two years. The PHC embeds students within a community organization to explore public health concepts such as, the effects of social determinants on health and community advocacy.

During Abby's experience her first year at Square One—whose clients face poverty, food insecurity, and in some cases, substance use—she learned a lot about her community and herself, as well as how medical professionals, along with teachers, law enforcement, and others, can work together to help their communities.

Opening Her Eyes to Her Own Biases

Abby did her second PHC with Quaboag Hills Substance Use Alliance. As she and the medical students interviewed individuals involved with the justice system and substance use disorders, she saw how a lot of people are set up for failure.

Abby has worked in retail pharmacy in Springfield for many years where Suboxone is on the “fast rack”—one of the most commonly dispensed medications. Her perspective shifted after interviewing a woman who had struggled with a substance use disorder for more than 18 years—yet had never been provided with local resources to get help, Narcan education, or support, from a pharmacist or pharmacy technician.

“This individual felt judged every time she went to a pharmacy, which made the road to recovery even harder,” said Abby. And she realized that these patients are not just "another Suboxone prescription,” each is a person with whom she can form a relationship.

Helping Shape Her Professional Identity