Adding to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy’s (PCP) expanding repertoire of community-based health initiatives, Katherine Koffer, PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, gladly accepted the Health Federation of Philadelphia’s (HFP) offer to leverage PCP in the development of a bilingual smoking cessation program for local residents. Through the program, HFP wished to target non-speakers of English, an often overlooked community of people in Philadelphia.
Such a program has a clear wellness benefit for Philadelphians, but Dr. Koffer immediately recognized the additional positive impact for a second population—her pharmacy students.
“PCP is seeking to increase its partnerships with community services organizations in Philadelphia. In addition, the College has identified the need for pharmacists to participate in public health programs such as smoking cessation,” Dr. Koffer explained. “A primary role of a pharmacist is contribution to their community and the public health of its citizens.”
In lieu of providing a quick fix, students had to exercise a set of skills that health professionals take a lifetime to perfect: the patient interview. A mastery of motivational interviewing, a style used often in smoking cessation, aids in other pharmaceutical provisions likes medication therapy management and diabetes education. Participation in the program also allowed students to work in the public health sector, engaging with patients at area community health center and collaborating with public health officials at HFP.
One of the doctor of pharmacy student’s competencies defined by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy is engagement in public health. Participation in efforts like the smoking cessation program help students recognize how community engagement is an essential component of pharmacy practice.
“I felt [the program] was a good opportunity to experience patient care in an outpatient setting,” said Raymond Vuong PharmD’13 candidate. “The idea that we were targeting underserved and foreign individuals who would benefit from my skill of speaking a second language solidified my decision.”
HFP, whose mission is to, “improve access to and quality of health care services for underserved and vulnerable individuals and families,” was hopeful bilingual pharmacy students could best aid non-native speakers of English in smoking cessation. From Arabic, to Cantonese, Haitian, Russian, and Spanish, PCP students had 11—and counting—foreign language represented.