Students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo can soon leave Student Medical Services with a prescription filled by a pharmacist for the first time thanks to a collaborative effort from Student Medical Services (a unit in Student Health & Wellness Programs) and faculty from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP).
Mimi Pezzuto, an instructor at DKICP, has volunteered to work with Heather Hirata at Student Medical Services in order to give students access to better health care. Pezzuto applied to the Hawaiʻi Board of Pharmacy for the clinic pharmacy to get state licensure, and was appointed Pharmacist in Charge in March. An official agreement is projected to take effect Oct. 2 that will allow pharmacy students to take part in patient care.
“This is a grassroots movement, but the goal is to operate as a fully functioning pharmacy,” said Hirata, a board-certified nurse practitioner who has supervised students from nursing programs at UH Hilo and UH Manoa. “Pharmacy students will be able to work alongside nursing students. We’re all in the same field so there are opportunities for everyone to learn something new.”
Pharmacy students have been able to contribute to the clinic in the past by labeling and stocking the medicine cabinets. Now with faculty supervision, they will be able to have direct contact with patients from the beginning of their care.
“I get to roll up my sleeves and get back in the trenches to do what I was trained to do, which is spend time with patients,” said Pezzuto, who teaches a class on Health Care Systems and is a licensed pharmacist. “Because we can take the time to have one-on-one conversations before filling a prescription, I can find out so much more about the other medications they might be taking and have an in-depth discussion about their drug therapy without interruption or pressure to perform other tasks.”
Pezzuto has had a chance to see the clinic in action while setting up the pharmacy with Hirata. She was there when a patient came in in the midst of an asthma attack and they were able to administer medication during her attack.
Another student came in complaining of severe migraines. After a discussion with her doctor, it was determined her headaches may not be migraines, and alternate medication regimens are being examined.
“Those are the kinds of opportunities pharmacists should have but often don’t because of demands on their time,” Pezzuto said. “It’s not often a pharmacist will have access to a patient’s chart. But this is the whole idea of being a clinical pharmacist.”
Pezzuto aims to set up hours at least two days a week talking to patients and helping to determine what they might need. Students are already signing up to give vaccinations with faculty supervision.
The not-for-profit clinic is open primarily to students, but the family planning clinic is open to the general public. It functions in four small rooms on the second floor of the Campus Center. Thanks to federal funding for family planning, patients have a choice whether to use insurance or not, and there’s a sliding scale for medications.
“I hope to bring students here eventually so they can learn the finer details of filling a prescription, from talking to the patient to filing for insurance if they have it,” Pezzuto said. “We also want to give them a chance to practice immunization skills, which will help them when they finish school.”
Pezzuto also is planning a fundraiser concert featuring local students studying under a world-renowned pianist on Oct. 13, with proceeds to benefit expanded student services with the Student Medical Services. She said working at the Student Medical Services gives DKICP another chance to be a part of the University and the greater community.
“We help our students plan several health fairs throughout the year on every major island in the state, and that helps remind us of our purpose, which is to help the community in which we live,” she said. “I’m really excited to find opportunities on campus where we can do the same thing.”