Enhancing patient care earns UH pharmacy students top honors


First through fourth place swept by UH in Texas pharmacy association competition

(L-to-R): Denise Martinez, Brice Labruzzo, Dean Sunny E. Ohia, Isaac Lopez, and Molly Graham.

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HOUSTON, Aug. 3, 2004 Projects addressing asthma management, community wellness, high school outreach and medication labeling earned UH College of Pharmacy students top honors in a recent Texas Pharmacy Association (TPA) competition.

Placing first through fourth place, University of Houston College of Pharmacy students swept the Texas Pharmacy Association Innovative Pharmacy Project Competition recently held at the 125th Annual TPA Meeting and Expo in Dallas. Additional awards included the membership award from the Texas Pharmacy Association, Academy of Students of Pharmacy (TPA-ASP). Coming in ahead of the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech and Texas Southern University pharmacy colleges and schools, the UH College of Pharmacy won for having the highest percentage of a student body as members of the TPA-ASP. Two UH alumni also were honored at the annual TPA meeting.

Sponsored by AstraZeneca and Elan Pharmaceuticals, the Innovative Pharmacy Project Competition judged projects on their execution, from the proposal to data collection. Submissions were to utilize practices that could be applied to implement new policies to enhance patient care outcomes or medication control and delivery.

"The level of accomplishment of our students in this competition is a reflection of the high quality of education they receive from our college," said Sunny E. Ohia, dean of the UH College of Pharmacy.

Awarded first place, second-year student Isaac Lopez Jr. argued that several issues exist with over-the-counter medication labels in his project titled "Over-the-counter medication use enhanced with bilingual product information labels." Lopez focused on such factors as the small font size of text that affect the elderly and visually impaired, complex medication terminology and unavailability of multilingual product information for non-English speaking populations. Under the direction of Clinical Professor Sujit Sansgiry, Lopez proposed to develop and evaluate bilingual product information labels in Spanish and English as compared to other over-the-counter marketed labels. After surveying participants in the study, who evaluated both the old and new labeling format and Lopez' proposed format, he found that, overall, participants responded more positively to the newer bilingual label designed by Lopez.

In second place, fourth-year students Brice Labruzzo and Denise Martinez participated in a high school outreach program in which they visited five area high schools to educate students on the pharmacy profession. During the next year, the UH College of Pharmacy will track the response received from interested students, several of whom already have contacted the college for information on the professional program.

A community wellness initiative by fourth-year student Molly Graham captured third place. She held a series of seminars to educate the public on diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cholesterol, MEDS for Kids, Herbal and Nutritional Supplements, and osteoporosis.

"I took a couple of packets home to my mother who suffers from diabetes," said first-year UH pharmacy student Arshunda Washington. "She is very resistant to reading about diabetes and asking questions. Because the information from the seminar was presented in a more readable and understandable format, my mother started following some of the instructions and recipes in an attempt to make a positive change in her lifestyle."

While only the students from the top three projects were asked to make a presentation at the conference, a UH student also took home the fourth place prize. Studying pharmacists' impact on asthma management in the community, fourth-year student Rosalyn Adigun assessed the impact that a pharmacist-patient relationship in a community setting can have in improving the management of asthma.

The two UH College of Pharmacy alumni to receive awards at this TPA gathering are 1965 alum Celso Cuellar Jr. and 1985 alum Carolyn Hilscher. Cuellar received the Local Association Leadership Award, based on excellence in programs and meetings, member communications, involvement in government affairs, public relations activities, membership growth and continuing education. Hilscher received the Bowl of Hygeia Award, recognizing a pharmacist who has exhibited significant involvement in community service activities.

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